Archives For Leadership

imitating

Do you have a life worth imitating? I once heard a speaker ask that question and it stopped my world for a while. I asked myself over and over that whole day, “Do I have a life worth imitating?”

My first reaction was, “no!” I could hear a voice coming from somewhere saying, “You’re not horrible but you are way to messed up for anybody to imitate.” I could feel myself giving credence to the voice of distraction. The voice was somewhat correct. I am kind of messed up.  I imagine you feel the same way at times.

Then it hit me. It was the Apostle Paul who said in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “ Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.” The great and messed up Apostle himself giving a command to allow others to imitate him as he also imitated Christ.

Imitating Christ is the key and not me being perfect. In Christ, I’m righteous and forgiving. In Christ, I’m a mess in the working. In Christ, is the only answer I have because He is the only answer.

N.T. Wright speaking about the resurrection of Christ says this, “The message of Easter is that God’s new world has been unveiled in Jesus Christ and that you’re now invited to belong to it.” You are invited to belong even as messed up as you are and you’re heading toward eternal life. When you understand that, you then can easily understand the necessity to invite other to imitate you as you imitate Christ.

Paul knew a perfect and freeing fact! Listen with your heart to what he wrote in 1 Timothy 1:15-16, “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life.”

Now get out there and find someone to disciple by calling him or her to imitate you. That’s how disciples are made, and yes, sometimes it’s messed up and muddy. That is what happens when you get up closer with each other.

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Getting away has always been hard for me. I feel like the weight of many peoples lives lean upon my faithfulness. They count on me to give them comfort, hope, purpose, and a weekly word from God. I try to get away a few times a year, but I can’t ever seem to get away.

My wife knows how hard it is for me. She tells me all the time when we are on vacation or an anniversary getaway, to let go of ministry for a few days. I do understand what she is saying, but in my heart I hear, “If you let go of your ministry thoughts you are letting go of God’s call on you life. You are letting go of your responsibility and call to help people.”

While on our latest getaway, (our 24th anniversary) I tried my best to disconnect. Amy asked me more than a few times to stop thinking of ministry and doing ministry. I smiled each time and said, “No problem, I will.” Thirty-seconds later while she was talking, I’m thinking of some family that needs my attention. I’m trying to listen to her and hear my own thoughts and plans that will help them through a difficult time.

I’m not particularly good at faking my wife out. She knows me too well, and yet she somehow still loves me. I don’t get it! I’m one lucky man for sure. Anyway, it doesn’t take long for my wife to see I’m lost in thought and not actually in the moment with her. It’s kind of like when the T.V. is on, and she is trying to communicate with me and I have part of my attention on the T.V. and part of my attention on her. It just doesn’t work for either one of us. At least in a T.V. situation she can and does just turn it off or hit the mute button to capture my attention.

I’m convinced my wife knows me better than I know myself. I’m certain God knows me better than myself, and I’m pretty sure He speaks through her often if I would just listen. Our latest getaway has certainly helped me. She told me many times to unplug and sadly it took me to the last day, but I think I’m beginning to understand a absolute truth. It’s a truth I know, but often I don’t apply properly. That true is, God doesn’t need me to do His work; He has called and chosen me to do His work.

The “need” part is where I get messed up. I often live my life like God needs me, and I put undue pressure on my life and family. Instead, I need to wake up the “CHOSEN ME” part. According to research 40% of pastors and 47% of spouses are suffering from burnout, frantic schedules, and/or unrealistic expectations. I’m convinced much of the cause is because pastors, and yes, even spouses can’t let go when God has called them to rest.

I once read, “Pastor burnout is a weapon the enemy uses with great efficiency. It is surprising in its simplicity but brutal in its impact. Burnout begins by encouraging us to do what we do best – minister to people.” I’ve learned this last time away, sometimes I’m the people, and God wants to minster to my family and me.

Who Will You Affirm Today?

January 4, 2013 — 1 Comment

3-ways-to-affirm-others

Everyone needs affirmation. Whom will you affirm today? I’m not talking about just giving someone a passing acknowledgement. I’m speaking of giving a compliment, an affirmation that is life giving.

As Christ followers,  we have been placed in the harvest field of life surrounded by humanity and their felt needs. We are called to build others up, where the world and possibly their own idea of themselves have torn them down.

Take time today to notice someone whom you know has not been noticed in awhile. Make a comment that places value in their life. For example, if you work with them share how effective they are to the workplace. Deposit confidence into their life. When you do that, you uplift their worth.

You just never know who might be close to giving up. Your words of hope could be the precise thing that keeps them going. As Christ followers,  we should be looking for ways to take away the feelings of insignificance that others might be secretly carrying deep inside.

As you face the world around you daily, walk in the power and passion of Acts 20:35, “it is more blessed to give than to receive.”  We are called to do more for the world than it does for us. We can accomplish that by thinking of others before ourselves.

 

election-dayToday we vote. Millions of eager citizens of our great nation will go to the polls and cast their vote for the candidate they most feel will move our country forward in the right direction. I thank God for the right to vote and I believe you should also.

As a pastor and leader myself, I only ask you that you vote. In America, we have been blessed to do so, and I feel we should exercise that right with absolute joy and thankfulness.

I come today, not to endorse a candidate, but to share a few ways to pray for those in authority. After all, that is what is commanded in scripture. Scripture teaches that we should pray for those in authority.

1 Timothy 2: 1-5 teaches us, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,”

1. We need to pray our leaders recognize their decision will be weighed in eternity.

2. We need to pray for our leaders to have wisdom beyond themselves

3. We need to pray their lives are peaceful, quiet and godly

4. We need to pray for healing through out our land

5. We need to pray our leaders truly seek the heart of God

6. We need to pray that God’s will becomes the will of our leaders

We must remember, Those in authority are there by the will of God and God will use them to accomplish His ultimate plan.

Therefore, we pray for our leaders.

NO MATTER WHAT

1. We pray no matter if they are Democrat, Independent or Republican

2. We pray no matter if the leader is liberal or conservative

3. We pray no matter how immoral or how moral they are

4. We pray no matter how just or unjust their decisions might be.

We pray NO MATTER WHAT! We are Christ followers and our prayers and what we do truly matters. I leave you with a quote from N.T. Wright

 

“Our task as image-bearing, God-loving, Christ-shaped, Spirit-filled Christians, following Christ and shaping our world, is to announce redemption to a world that has discovered its fallenness, to announce healing to a world that has discovered its brokenness, to proclaim love and trust to a world that knows only exploitation, fear and suspicion…The gospel of Jesus points us and indeed urges us to be at the leading edge of the whole culture, articulating in story and music and art and philosophy and education and poetry and politics and theology and even–heaven help us–Biblical studies, a worldview that will mount the historically-rooted Christian challenge to both modernity and postmodernity, leading the way…with joy and humor and gentleness and good judgment and true wisdom. I believe if we face the question, “if not now, then when?” if we are grasped by this vision we may also hear the question, “if not us, then who?” And if the gospel of Jesus is not the key to this task, then what is?” ― N.T. Wright, The Challenge of Jesus: Rediscovering Who Jesus Was and Is

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“Pastor Steve, I have a prayer request.” I heard him say it loud and clear. I had seen him a few times in our Sunday morning service, but this was his first time in our new believers class. Without missing a beat, I jumped way ahead of his request and began to interject what the request might be. You see, at this time in my life I was the pastor of a church in San Francisco and most of our people were very low-income and many were homeless. It was a wonderful time in my life that shaped who I am and I am thankful to have been a pastor in the inner city for over 13 years.

Anyway, back to the story. Because I had dealt with the homeless for many years at this point I made a lot of assumptions about what his prayer request could be. I threw out a few can’t miss things. I said, “Do you need us to pray you can find a job, a place to stay or to help you get off drugs?” He looked at me bewildered for a moment and then said, “No, I don’t think you understand. I’ve been coming to church here for a few weeks and you have really touched my life through your messages. I’ve been listening and recently I gave my life to Christ. That’s why I’m here in this new believers class.” “That’s wonderful” I said.

He continued. “I’ve lived behind a dumpster for many years and I’ve been sleeping on the sidewalk for all of those years also. I’ve recently got into a drug program and I’ve even found a part-time job. Things are starting to turn around in my life.” What he said next blew me out of the water!

He dropped his head a moment…holding back tears and then slowly raised his head making eye contact with me. “Pastor, I can’t sleep at night in a bed. I’ve not slept in a bed in many years and each night I end up on the floor. When I sleep like that it causes me to remember the past and I want to go back to that life. It’s a life I know how to control.”

I had missed it big time on the prayer request and I was holding back tears as he went on to finish his request.

“Pastor, do you think God can teach me how to sleep in a bed?” He began to cry. That was his prayer request!

I went to where he was and got on my knees in front of him and held his hands. I looked him in the eyes and said I was sorry for jumping ahead of him. I called the rest of the class around him and we prayed a prayer over him that God would teach him to sleep in a bed at night. It was a strong prayer and everyone in the room could feel God moving. Over the next several weeks that prayer was answered mightily. Sleep finally came to him the way he wanted.

 

What’s the take away?

When it comes to making disciples we should start where they are and not where we think they should be. We should never jump to conclusions about the lives of those God sends our way. We need to listen first and find where God is working and then join Him. You might just be surprised at where God wants to work in their life first.

 

What are your thoughts? I would love to hear them. Share with us. Leave a comment.

 

 

distractions

There are times I find it extremely difficult  to focus on the task at hand. There are distractions everywhere just waiting to suck the life out of my goals for the giving day. If you’re like me, you have a lot of important things each day to accomplish and they can’t be rolled over to the next day.

Distractions come easy to most of us. The distraction monster loves to win our attention away from where our attention really needs to be. Setting goals is not the problem for most people. The problem for many is staying focused to see those goals come to pass.

If you are having a problem staying focused you are not alone and you are certainly not experiencing something new. Distractions have been around since the Garden of Eden. Just ask Adam and Eve about the snake. Distractions are the enemy and can be vanquished. So, how do you vanquish the distraction monster? This is how I do it.

1. Pinpoint The Interferences

First, you must identify what is keeping you distracted from your task at hand. I write sermons each week and it takes a lot of time and focus. There are  many things that can distract me from my goal if I allow them to. For example, T.V. on in another room, open tabs on my computer with twitter or Facebook calling me to take a look at them…my cell phone.  There are of course many more but I think you get my point. Whatever is distracting you must be pinpointed first.

2. Disconnect From The Interferences

Second, you must disconnect from what you have just identified as a distraction. Disconnecting looks different for each of us but it must be done. For me, I close the internet down, turn off the T.V., shut off my cell phone. Whatever I need to do, I do it on PURPOSE. I control it, so it doesn’t control me.

3. Pursue Your Objective

Third, pursue freely the goal at hand. You have won the battle again the distraction monster. You have pinpointed  the problem. You have disconnected from the problem. You now are clear for takeoff. Make sure your seat-belt is fastened and enjoy being distraction free.

 

Leave a Comment

What helps you to stay on track with your goals? Share with us.

 


 

 

Today is part 4 and the final post in this series on witnessing and working among the forgotten of the world.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Listening and Co-suffering are lost gifts that need to be recovered in our witnessing.

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Through Listening We Witness

When I speak of listening I mean to be able to hear their secret hurts covered by multifaceted learned responses coupled by years of denial. I do my best to listen in such a way as to pick up on where they are truly wounded in their emotions by paying careful attention to each and every statement they are making.

I’m looking for where their life is unadjusted to the work of the Spirit of God.  I am convinced to find true and lasting healing a person must adjust their life to what God wants to do in their life. Once I have listened to them and  feel I have heard where they are truly wounded. I like to walk them through Romans 8:26-28.

 

Through Co-suffering We Witness

The bible says in Romans 8:26-28 “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will. 28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

This portion of scripture has over the years become very powerful for me in walking people right into the very presence of God. For me, this passage shows that without the leading of the Spirit of God, the perfect will of God, which I believe to bring lasting peace and joy, cannot fully be realized. It would do well at this point to pause and insert a thought. By speaking of lasting peace and joy I am in no way saying trouble or conflict will completely disappear from a person’s life. In fact, it is my belief that some hurt and pain this side of heaven will find its ultimate healing only when we find ourselves in His presence face to face.

Romans 8:26-28 is very power when applied to our life and the lives of those we are witnessing to. Notice verse 26 says, “the Spirit helps us in our weakness.” This is an incredible picture of the Spirit involved in the believer’s life by co-suffering. The Spirit of God actually comes along side of a believer and walks with them through their pain.

Another reason this verse is great to use is found in verse 26 because we are told that we don’t even truly know how to pray the perfect will of God for our lives without the help of the Spirit, who according to verse 27, searches our heart and knows the mind of the Spirit-then intercession is made according to God’s will.

Then and only then can Verse 28  be fulfilled which again says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” I love using this portion of scripture because I believe it truly demonstrates God centered witnessing by showing a person that God by His Spirit is truly connected with the believer’s everyday walk. At this point I’ve found it’s much easier to lead someone to Christ or minister to someone that is in Christ but has simply lost their way.

 

How are you at listening and Co-suffering? Do you think you listening well? Do you Co-suffer well? Leave a commit and share your thoughts with others.

 

 

 

In part 1 of witnessing and working among the forgotten of the world we talked about noticing the unnoticed. In part 2 we dealt with giving them undivided time. Today we explore the promise of hope.

 

Promise of Hope (part 3)
Once I have given them undivided attention I will asks them a simple question. “Do you think it can ever be any better than it is right now for you?” This question is perfect for leading to a God centered discussion on hope. Hope is powerful because in their world both the external living environment of the inner city and their internal dialogue often screams to the broken person living on the street or in a very poor condition there is no hope and change is impossible. The graceful truth of hope breaks through both of those lies. Many see themselves as marred beyond repair and feel they are worthless.

I then share the story of the potter in the book of Jeremiah 18:1-6.
I do a summary of how the clay was being worked on but for some strange reason the clay became marred in the hand of the potter mainly because it was off-center and that the potter instead of throwing it away did something amazing. The potter did not throw the ruined clay into the corner of the shop, or into the trash. He continued working with it and reshaped it into another vessel, which he deemed good to make. In other words, he began again, from scratch with the same clay and gave it a shape that was good and would hold its form.

Winning their trust through listening and co-suffering is very important because trust is when you give the care of your own life over to another for help and direction. Many people in the inner city have been let down so many times they have a wall built up that only listening and co-suffering can break. Listening; because it is godly, co-suffering; because it too is godly and both are grounded in God’s unconditional love.

Tomorrow we will take a look at listening and co-suffering.

How have you offered the promise of hope to others you have met in the harvest field of life? Share with us by posting a comment.

 

 

Part 4


You heard me right! I can’t stand that guy! I know him well. That guy is ME. I’m the guy that from time to time gets his eyes so focused on the success of others, that I can’t see clearly or hear clearly what God wants me to do next. I can look at and study the creativity of others so intensely sometimes that I lose the very creativity that God has placed in my own life. I’m convinced I get in my way more often than any other person or ministry does.

So, what are the things I do when I notice that that guy want to take over again?

1. Take a Sabbatical from reading twitter, Facebook and blogs (e.g. a day, a few days, a week)

2. Write down every creative thought (Whispers of God to my heart) on a legal pad while I’m praying

3. Embrace again the truth that God is the author of my life and wants to be creative through me.

4. Act on those whispers regardless of the outcome.

I believe there is a big difference between learning from the creativity of others and trusting in the creativity that God has placed in you. Yes, creativity is in you. The creator God has placed it there because you are His treasure chest.

What are some things you do when that guy you can’t stand shows up?

Not so long ago… or depending on when you’re reading this, I posted the following statement on twitter.

    Don’t become so self-focused you miss the opportunity to help others grab their opportunity.

It came to me about 3:45am while on vacation. I must admit it really made me think. In fact, I couldn’t go back to sleep. In a world were each of us are just trying to get ahead, it often pays to slow down and help others. In fact, it’s a God trait.

Helping others is part of being a disciple of Christ. It was Christ who first showed us this gift. The gift of helping others. Even when Jesus was on mission to die for us, He still took the time at the last supper to wash the feet of the disciples. In other words, He didn’t step over the water basin and miss the opportunity to show great love. He served them, so they would one day have the nature to serve others.

I once saw a t-shirt that read, “Yeah I’m selfish helping others feels great.” It does fell great and the reason why is it brings glory to God when we help others.

What about you? Are you stepping over the water basin to often? Has life gotten so busy you walk by Jesus moments without even noticing?

Now get out there today and be selfish.

    Philippians 2:4 ESV
    Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.