Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing

I’ve been listening to Jadon Lavik’s version of the song below a lot lately. It’s speaking to me. What insight a pastor from 1757 who penned this hymn had even today into my heart.

I’ve made bold the parts which speak to me most (and made super bold the line which rocks my world).

Come, Thou Fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace
Streams of mercy, never ceasing
Call for songs of loudest praise
Teach me some melodious sonnet
Sung by flaming tongues above
Praise the mount, I’m fixed upon it
Mount of Thy unchanging love

Here I raise my Ebenezer
Here there by Thy great help I’ve come
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure
Safely to arrive at home
Jesus sought me when a stranger
Wandering from the fold of God

He, to rescue me from danger
Interposed His precious blood

O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be

Let that grace now, like a fetter
Bind my wandering heart to Thee

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it
Prone to leave the God I love

Here’s my heart, O take and seal it
Seal it for Thy courts above

Come, Thou Fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace
Streams of mercy, never ceasing
Call for songs of loudest praise
Teach me some melodious sonnet
Sung by flaming tongues above
Praise the mount, I’m fixed upon it
Mount of Thy unchanging love

Which phrases speak to you most?

7 Ways a Leader Has a Better Weekend

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If you are like me you love your weekends. T.G.I.F…right? If we are not careful, however, the weekend passes so quickly and we begin another work week feeling we wasted the weekend we had. Or we are so stressed by the week behind or the week ahead that all we do is catch our breath and we can’t fully enjoy the weekend.

How can we help guarantee better weekends? Every weekend. I have learned the more intentional Cheryl and I are about planning for it, the better weekends we had as a family when our boys are home and now as empty-nesters.

Here are 7 suggestions I try to live:

Plan on Monday – Set your week up for success. Plan what you can realistically do in a week and end the week with a sense of accomplishment.

Do hard things now – Handle the hard stuff as they arise. Try not to carry it into the weekend. Obviously that’s not always possible, but many times it is. for example, don’t put off that difficult conversation you know you have to have until Monday if you can and should do it today. It will haunt you all weekend. Whatever the issue, bite the bullet and handle the tough issue, as soon as effectively possible.

Be honest with your schedule – Don’t feel bad about declining activities on the weekend. If you want to go then go, but if you’d rather relax then do that. No guilt. Say yes sparingly when accepting weekend appointments. They sometimes sound good on Monday but are less exciting on Saturday morning.

Attend church – That’s an appointment you should keep. I know it seems self-serving to suggest it, and I’m not being legalistic. That’s not my nature or theology. I’ve just hardly ever heard someone say they wish they’d skipped church. But I’ve heard many who believe it gave them a better weekend. God always seems to bless the time I give Him.

Plan ahead for a true Sabbath – Even though it makes for slightly longer weekdays, try to accomplish many of the “chores” you have to do before the weekend. Try to have some unplanned time simply to do what you enjoy.

Keep a fairly normal sleep schedule – If you always have to “catch up” on your sleep on the weekends, or you spend your week tired because of the late nights on the weekend, you never gain a healthy rhythm for life. Be reasonably consistent in your bedtime and waking up time and you’ll feel better and enjoy a more productive awake time.

Share time with people you love – The best memories center around time with people we love. When the family is running in many different directions you end the weekend feeling like you “missed” the weekend. Limit activities your family commits to or do things your family can do together. This takes prior thought and coordination but makes for a more enjoyable weekend.

Pastors, this list includes you too. I originally wrote it for you and decided to expand it to a more general audience. Your weekend may look different, but you need to protect it. I wrote THIS POST on how I protect my Sabbath.

What tips do you have for a better weekend?

5 Times Change is Hardest

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Change is hard. Almost always. Sometimes change is harder than other times. It’s then where leadership is tested. Tensions can mount. And people are more likely to object.

It’s good to know these times before a leader approaches change. Change is necessary. In fact, while change may produce conflict, without change there will be conflict. Read THIS POST For more on that statement. Since change is necessary and inevitable, understanding these scenarios before we attempt change may help us lead change better.

Here are 5 times I’ve discovered that change is hardest to accept and implement:

When there hasn’t been change in a very long time. Change becomes more comfortable when it occurs regularly. When nothing has changed for a period of time, people feel even more uncomfortable and are likely to resist more. Leaders in this scenario should make smaller changes to get small wins to hopefully spur hunger for more change, or at least stretch the comfort level for change again. Ease into it.

When there isn’t a culture of change. Sometimes people are conditioned against change. Imagine a work environment where everyone wears the same colored pants and shirt every day. Black pants and white shirt uniforms. Remember IBM? I was raised to believe they had “uniforms” of black suits and white shirts. Apparently, they never had a policy of a strict dress code. It just sprang up as culture. Changing that culture took years. When the culture is sameness, leaders often have to address culture before they address change.

When the vision for change isn’t abundantly clear. This doesn’t mean people will always agree with the change even if it is clear. Some people never agree with change. Any change. But, when there doesn’t appear to be a compelling reason for the change, opposition is more likely to occur. Good leaders help people understand the why behind the change as much as possible. It would be better to over communicate than under communicate.

When there isn’t an obvious or capable person to cast the vision and lead the change. People follow leaders they trust. It is vital when implementing change that a leader be in place who can carry the charge for the change. In cases where there is not a clear person to own the vision of change, I usually back away from the change until the leader is in place.

When the risk seems bigger than the return. By definition, faith moves us into the unknown. When we can’t discern the return on the risk we are more likely to object. While this needs to be understood, it should also be understood that anything of value requires risk. Obedience to God requires faith. Every time. So the greatest things we can achieve in life will almost always appear to have bigger risk than the return we can see in the beginning. Good leaders challenge people beyond their level of comfort. Leadership is the tension between the comfort of where we are and the potential of where we could be.

Again, none of these are reasons not to change, but understanding these can help us better navigate through change.

What other reasons have you noticed that make change especially difficult?

12 Leadership Principles of Jesus That Inspire Me

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There are many leaders I admire who have influenced my own leadership. I admire the teachings on leadership by guys like John Maxwell, Andy Stanley, and Patrick Lencioni. There are leaders from my personal life such as a former pastor, a former boss, a high school principal and leaders in my own community who have influenced me as I have watched their leadership. I also love to learn from a great athletic coach. I have been known to choose the teams I support by the coach that leads them. I love leadership. It is so needed these days; especially in our churches.

The principles, however, that I admire most are found in the leadership style of Jesus. Jesus’ leadership is still impacting culture today.

Here are 12 leadership principles of Jesus that inspire me:

Jesus was willing to invest in people others would have dismissed. Consider the disciples. They were not the “religious” elite, yet Jesus used them to start His church.

Jesus released responsibility and ownership in a ministry. Consider how Jesus sent the disciples out on their own. No micro-management it appears.

Jesus had a leadership succession plan.  Jesus consistently reminded the disciples that He wouldn’t always be with them. Of course, He was still the “leader”, but He left others to take the ministry forward.

Jesus practiced servant leadership better than anyone. The King of kings was willing to wash the feet of His followers.

Jesus was laser focused on His vision. Regardless of the persecutions or distractions, Jesus kept on the mission God had called Him to complete.

Jesus handled distractions with grace. When the woman who had been bleeding for 12 years touched His garment, Jesus stopped to heal her, even though headed to a definite purpose.

Jesus was into self-development. Jesus constantly slipped away to spend time with God.

Jesus was into leadership development and replacement. He very purposefully prepared the disciples to take over the ministry. He pushed people beyond what they felt they were capable of doing.

Jesus held followers to high expectations. Jesus was not afraid to make huge requests of people. “Follow Me” meant the disciples had to drop their agenda to do so. He told the disciples they must be willing to lose everything to follow Him.

Jesus cared more about people than about rules and regulations. He was willing to jeopardize Himself personally by breaking the “rules” to help someone in need.

Jesus celebrated success in ministry. He rewarded people generously who were faithful to Him and His cause.

Jesus finished well. Any questions whether His ministry was effective? Still working today.

Any other reasons you admire the leadership of Jesus?

7 Things that Keep a Pastor from Leading Well

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In my talks with pastors and ministry leaders, I hear some repeated themes. One common theme is that they have a story of a failed leadership experience. Their first church. The church experience that went bad. Or, many times their current ministry and that’s the reason for our conversation.

They grew (or are growing) from the time, but looking back, they wish they had known then what they know now. You’ve probably got some of those learning experiences too. It may have been an incident or the entire time in that ministry, but there were critical errors that kept you and the church from accomplishing all God had for you. Errors in leading. Why don’t we learn from each other?

I’ve reflected back on some of those conversations and there are literal words I have heard consistently over time.

Here are 7 things I’m hearing that kept a pastor from leading well:

“I failed to delegate” – Many pastors try to be a solo leader. They know the expectation placed upon them and they know what they want to achieve, and they begin to think if it is going to be done right they must do it. They begin to try to control every outcome. Sadly, it can even limit the leader’s willingness to walk by faith. It doesn’t take long until a pastor burns out, potential leaders disappear and people are never developed and discipled. It’s a recipe for eventual disaster in leadership.

“We couldn’t see beyond today” – Many pastors get a tunnel vision in leading people. They only see what they see. They don’t consider the unseen…the yet to be imagined…the hidden gems of opportunity. Again, often this is a matter of faith, or laziness, sometimes a personality wiring, or maybe just falling into a rut of routine. In the sameness of today, things become stale and eventually people become bored…and someday they disappear.

“I ignored the real problems” – The real problems aren’t always the spoken problems. They aren’t the obvious problems. The real problems are the underlying reasons behind a problem. They usually deal with heart problems. What people are really thinking, but aren’t saying. The real problems always involve people and often involve perceptions, which may or may not be reality.

“We resisted change too long” – Change is coming. One way or another. Better to be on the side of change where you are the change agent, rather than being the agent that has to be changed. (If you get what I mean.) Over time, if change is ignored, change will be thrust upon you. And, that’s never welcomed change.

“I tried to please everyone” – When you do this you really please no one. Your time management isn’t under control. You are pulled in so many directions you do nothing effectively. Instead of leadership there is chaos. The loudest voices win and the silent ones you actually have a chance of leading somewhere disappear. And, you end up one very tired, skittish, ineffective pastor.

“The momentum was allowed to die.” – Momentum is extremely difficult to get back if you ever lose it. It’s easier to shift momentum to something new through change than it is to rebirth it when momentum is completely absent.

“I neglected my family” – Many pastors tell me they started to have problems at home when the ministry received more focus than the family. Three times in the past month, I’ve talked with a pastor who walked away from ministry…for how long I don’t know…because they realized they were going to lose their family if they didn’t. Sadly, too many pastors stay until it’s too late to repair the damage. Very sad.

That’s what I’m hearing…consistently.

What are some reasons you’ve heard that kept a pastor from leading well?

The 7 Best Excuses We Make

Excuses File Contains Reasons And Scapegoats

There’s always an excuse if we’re looking for one. I’ve made so many. Even when we are certain God has called us to something, we will stall because an excuse is always near. Most excuses seem reasonable at first glance. Common sense even.

But, following a dream, especially a God-inspired, God-sized dream, always requires a certain level of risk. Walking by faith. Stepping into the unknown. Overcoming excuses.

Are you stalling? Maybe you’re even running out of another good excuse. If an opportunity is still staring you in the face, let me help.

Here are 7 of the best excuses I’ve used or heard:

I can’t – You don’t have what it takes…and so far…aren’t trusting God to provide what you lack. (Gideon would agree. Judges 6)

I won’t – Or at least you won’t give it a try. In fact…if the truth is known…you’d rather run…some more. I did this one for years. (How did that work for Jonah?)

I don’t know how – It seems overwhelming…and you are either too proud to admit it or aren’t willing to learn. (Think Noah knew how to build a boat that large? Genesis 6)

I don’t have time – God calls for obedience now…and you’re preoccupied. And, chances are…with this as an excuse…you never will have time. This has worked for me before too…for a season. (See Luke 9:59)

I’m all alone – It feels that way sometimes, doesn’t it? It’s true. Sometimes we can’t see the forest for the trees. I once thought I was the only one with a burden to plant a church. Little did I know. God had an army prepared. (Elijah thought He was alone…and found out otherwise. 1 Kings 19)

I’m afraid – And you can choose to let fear control you. I have. Many times. It’s a powerful, motivating excuse. Much could go wrong. And, our mind is capable of quickly creating worst-case-scenarios. (Could we learn from Esther? Esther 3)

I can’t afford it – You’re afraid the dream will be more expensive than the provision of God. You wouldn’t verbalized this one, but it’s real, isn’t it? (Tell that to the widow in 1 Kings 17…or the disciples who picked up 12 baskets of leftover bread. Matthew 14)

There will always be an excuse not to follow the dreams God lays on your heart. Obstacles in life are plentiful. You can keep making excuses, or you can address them one excuse at a time. The one who achieves most is often the one most willing to overcome excuses.

Are you?

What excuse are you using to stall on God’s plan?

A Dad Loves Uniquely From Any Other Love…

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A dad loves uniquely from any other love.

A dad often shares a quieter love, marveling at his children on the inside, yet expressing it differently than mom.

A dad may act silly. Wear funny clothes. And never change his hairstyle, use the same corny jokes or actions, inaudibly enjoying the teasing it brings from his kids and because he loves the sound of his children laughing.

A dad will often stand back, watching as mom dotes, often even pretending he thinks she dotes too much, but so glad that mom dotes on his children.

A dad may pretend to be tough, when really, he’s only a big puppy dog, and this is many times only realized later in his life.

A dad might let mom take the phone call from the kids, but then ask lots of questions after the phone call ends.

A dad loves to sacrifice, work hard for his children, not doing it for recognition, but secretly relishing when his children do realize he did it just for them.

A dad might dismiss the need for attention. Say he doesn’t need anything. Act like he’s good with less attention on Father’s Day, but a dad warms inside with a simple acknowledgement from his children that he is their dad.

A dad loves uniquely from any other love.

(I realize this us written from the perspective of a dad who is involved in the life of his children…and it won’t fit with every dad. It’s written more in principle than in exact practice. A dad’s love is unique. But, I hope your dad was or is all that you have needed him to be, even though no dad is perfect. If you didn’t have a great experience with your dad, and I know so many who don’t have this story for their life, my heart goes out to you today. That was my story until the last few years of my dad’s life. Don’t be ashamed to reach out to other older men in your church or life and thank them for their influence in your life.)