If God Gives You Influence…

A Reminder to Pastors and Church Leaders

preacher

If God gives you influence the enemy gives you attention!

We shouldn’t be surprised when we see pastors and church leaders struggle. They are human – imperfect humans.

I have witnessed over the years – watching others and with my own experience – it’s often in the seasons where everything seems to be going so well when temptation is greatest.

Should we be surprised? I think not! We’ve been warned – and told how to respond.

Be self‑controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. 1 Peter 5:8-9

Pray for a pastor or church leader today. And, drop them a quick note to let them know you did.

5 Helpful Questions When Attempting  to Discern God’s Will

When options are plentiful

Holding Compass

I am often asked how to know if the plans we make are God’s will for our life. I’m not referring to which cereal to have for breakfast. For the most part I think God would simply say choose your favorite (and, like a good parent, try to steer you to a healthier option). I’m talking about those life-altering decisions, such as career choice, relationships, or decisions requiring huge steps of faith.

Most of us want to do God’s will, and yet, as I view Scripture, God seems to give us a tremendous amount of freedom to choose the paths in our life. If you’re like me, you’re fully capable of making a mistake. I’ve made many doing things my own way.

It seems easier for me when I have some sort of structure through which to process a decision. Years ago I began to ask myself questions when facing major options in my life.

Here are 5 helpful questions I often ask myself to help discern God’s will:

Does what I’m doing (or planning to do) conflict with Scripture?

Always start here, because God’s Word will never contradict what He’s asking you to do. God is always true to Himself and His Word is always true and relevant. We may differ in interpretation of a passage, but if it’s clearly spelled out in Scripture, then we clearly know His will.

Does what I am doing conflict with the counsel of others?

God uses others to confirm His will. I am thankful for the people in my life, including my wife and sons, who have helped shaped the path of my life. Often they see things I can’t see or believe in me when I can’t believe in myself. God sends the body of Christ to encourage, challenge and strengthen the body. (Don’t be confused, however, with times God calls us to go against the grain of life and walk by faith when everyone is saying we are crazy. See Noah for an example of one of those times.)

Does what I am doing conflict with the spirit within me?

God sent the Holy Spirit as a helper. He guides us with an inner peace or a holy unrest. If Christ is in you, He will not leave you to make a decision completely alone. Often God provides a peace or a lack thereof when He is trying to confirm His will.

Does what I am doing conflict with my life experience?

God uses our experiences in life to teach and mold us to His will. Often it isn’t as unusual of a path when we look back over our life experiences. Again, don’t be confused, because He usually stretches us out of our comfort zone also, but consider the life of Joseph. God continually used his past experiences to shape his future.

Does what I am doing conflict with my passion for life?

God tends to work with the things which fuel our fire. He loves when we are energized for the tasks He calls us to. When I look at Bible characters like Abraham, David, Peter or Paul it appears their calling matched their wiring. Paul was zealous for whatever he did. God used his passion for good. What’s your greatest passion? God may work within it to confirm His will.

Try those questions together and see how they line up to help discern God’s will as it relates with your the options before you.

I should encourage you in closing with this – I fully believe God works all things for good even when we miss His will in individual decisions. You can make a bad decision, but God retains the right to finish your story His way. Proverbs 16:9 says, “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.”

You may want to read 7 Ways to Distinguish God’s Voice from the Circumstances of Life

5 Qualities to Seek in the Heart of a Leader

As evidenced from the heart of Joseph

Closeup portrait smiling executive man, business person, worker listening to his heart with stethoscope isolated grey background. Preventive medicine, financial condition concept. Face expressions

In this post I’d love to consider the heart of a leader.

Someone asked me recently what I primarily look for in the hiring of a staff position. I said, without reservation, first and foremost, I look for the heart. I want a heart which honors Christ more than self, one which desires to grow and learn, and one which is willing to sacrifice personal privilege for benevolent purpose of others.

The heart of a leader is more important than any other characteristic.

Consider, for example, the life of a Bible character by the name of Joseph. Joseph’s story runs from Genesis 37-50. It’s an amazing story of God’s sovereignty and grace. Joseph is a standard bearer for character in the Old Testament. Some say he’s in many ways an Old Testament example of Christ – not sinless, as Christ was, but certainly a God-fearing man.

The part of Joseph’s story I want to point out has to do with what identified him with the heart of leader. I submit his heart is representative of the kind of heart all leaders should seek to have.

Here are 5 qualities to seek in the heart of a leader:

Imagination

Joseph was a dreamer. It caused him some problems, but he was able to see what others couldn’t see. He saw the big picture. Of course, this came from God, but I believe God has equipped all of us with the ability to dream. It may not be prophetic in nature, but we can seek and find the big picture if we are looking for it.

Integrity

When tempted by Potiphar’s wife and when an opportunity for revenge against his brothers presented itself, Joseph resisted temptation. The leader’s heart must continually seek what is right and good. People are watching and even the perception of evil can ruin a good leader. The heart of a leader must be above reproach.

Investment

Joseph helped the men in prison, he helped the Pharaoh and he even helped his brothers who had hurt him most. Joseph obviously believed the principle that helping others helps yourself. The heart of a leader must be willing to sacrifice his or her own agenda for the agenda of others.

Intentionality

Joseph was diligent during the famine, during the days of prison, even when he had the opportunity to get even with his brothers, but didn’t. Joseph was confident God had a plan for his life, so he refused to be distracted by things of lesser value.

Innovation

Joseph devised an ingenious plan to save the nations from desolation. Using godly wisdom, Joseph conserved the resources he had to accommodate the days of plenty and the days of few.

The hope of this post is you would reflect on your own leadership – consider your own heart as a leader.

What could you learn from the heart of Joseph?

Silence Can Be Deadly!

Especially when people are involved.

Mouth covered with tape

You’ve heard silence is golden – and it’s true. One of my favorite verses is Ecclesiastes 5:2. “God is in heaven and you are on earth. Let your words be few.”. James tells us to guard the tongue. I often get in less trouble when I talk less.

And, maybe this is exactly the encouragement you need from this post. Quit talking long enough to think before you speak – or before you post on Facebook! 

But, silence can also be deadly.

Especially in a team environment, in an organizational structure, or in a relational setting – anywhere people are closely involved with other people – silence can be a curse. When working on a project, implementing change, planning for the future – silence can kill you!

The point of this post is simply to remind you – people only know what they know. They often won’t know what they need to know unless you tell them.

In the process of leading people, keep people updated with what you know. Even if you don’t have all the answers, let them have the answers you do have.

When people don’t have information, they tend to invent their own scenarios.

Silence fuels rumors. They make up stories. They stretch and fabricate what the little they do know. Fear, tension, and frustrations rise. Even those who were once fully invested often become discouraged. Morale is injured and enthusiasm wanes.

And, all of these mostly emotionally-driven reactions are fueled by the unknown – by silence.

In my experience, people will be more patient if they receive adequate communication while they wait for the final details. Of course, the main thing people need to know is the why behind what you are doing – and you must keep reminding the – but they also want details of progress along the way. If you want to keep progress moving forward – break the silence and share information. Keep people informed. Communicate!

Have you experienced the pain of silence in a team, organizational, or relationship setting?

I Am a Pastor – And, I May Be Suffering From Burnout

What Now?

Desperate man holding his face in hands appears in a miserable state of unhappiness.

Pastor burnout is a common problem in the church today. I hear from pastors on a regular basis facing the stress of ministry. 

Here’s a common scenario, which can cause burnout to happen. These may be some of the more common ones I hear. Perhaps this is your story.

  • The church gets to a certain level.
  • Things start to slow down.
  • The church stops growing.
  • Maybe even slides backwards for a while.
  • Money becomes tighter.
  • People are complaining more.
  • Everyone is asking the pastor “What’s next?” “What do we do now?”
  • You’ve done everything you know how to do.
  • You feel stuck – trapped – afraid – paralyzed – confused – overwhelmed.

And, this is just one scenario. There are so many others. It could be the church is still growing – even rapidly, but the pastor is doing more now than previously. There never seems to be an end to the growth. People are demanding more and more from the pastor – there’s pressure to continue the increases – but, it feels like life is always going to be running out of control.

Pick your own scenario, but I know this – if not careful, the stress will quickly cause the pastor to:

  • Become more sensitive to criticism and stress.
  • Stop reading and learning techniques and strategies.
  • Quit taking risks – for fear of messing something up.
  • Become protective – maybe even isolated from others.
  • Develop excuses for every challenge.
  • Respond defensively to every challenge.
  • Begin to question your abilities.
  • Work harder, but not smarter.

No doubt, even if only a few of these are true, these are impacting every area of your life – including your family. 

If this is your story, I have a few words of encouragement:

  • Get help now. It might be professional help or not, but ask for help today!  You wouldn’t encourage the people you lead to do life alone – so why is it a good idea for you?
  • Surround yourself with people. Not the opposite, which can be a usual response to times like this – especially it seems by pastors.  Find people who love you – they are there if you look.
  • Find your center of gravity again. (Most likely this is Christ, right?)
  • Get back to the truth you already know.  You may start by reading 1 Kings 19 for another time one of God’s servants fell on difficult times. Read the Psalms. 
  • Renew the passion for your vision. God called you to something. He never said it would be easy. God-given dreams rarely are. Let whatever fuels you most fuel you again. This may mean you have to stop doing a lot of other things – even things people expect you to do – so you can better concentrate on what God called you to do. And, I assure you it wasn’t to please everyone. Plus, some of the stuff you are doing someone else probably needs to be – it’s could even be what God has gifted them to uniquely do. 
  • Start doing something towards a goal.  Inactivity never solved anything. you may need to rest – I’ll cover that too, but you may need to see progress towards something new to refuel your tank. Again, this doesn’t mean doing more. It means doing something better with your time – and trusting others with some of the things you’ve been doing. It means getting better as a leader – a Jethro counseled Moses type of leader. An Acts 6 type of leader. 
  • Look for some small wins.  It will help rebuild your confidence.
  • Stay faithful in the small things. Those disciplines you once had – such as reading your Bible everyday – but, you may have gotten distracted from them – they are even more important now. 
  • Discipline your Sabbath. This is huge! God didn’t give this command for seasons when everything was “caught up” and there were no more immediate demands. Those days never come! God knew what He was doing when He commanded a regular Sabbath – and, when He demonstrated it for us in His Creation. So, certainly a day a week, but if you need more it would be better to quit for a quarter than be out for the rest of the game.

Thanks for serving – even when the serving gets difficult. I am praying for you.

(You can make this post better if you share resources you know of to support pastors who may be facing burnout.)

 

Even in the best restaurants…

The napkin goes under the table leg.

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Even in the best restaurants – they still put napkins under a wobbly table.

They just use nicer napkins.

I was made aware of a wealthy family who took advantage of a couple of much lesser means. It was frustrating, because they were “legal”, but seemingly inflexible and even hurtful in their actions. 

The poorer couple was selling something to pay some unexpected expenses. In the closing documents they made a simple paperwork error in their original calculations – just a couple hundred dollars on a many thousand dollar sale – and, the wealthier couple held them to their original agreement – knowing it was an honest mistake and not the understood verbal agreement. They made sure every single penny was paid. 

It was a MAJOR loss for one couple. They needed every dime they could get. The extra money meant nothing in the grand scheme to the other couple – pocket change.

Of course, the wealthy was completely within their “rights”, but was it really the right thing to do? 

I hate when stuff like this happens. Jesus told a similar story I seem to recall. 

Shortly afterwards, Cheryl and I ate in a really nice restaurant. We were on vacation and treated ourselves to a great meal. It was one of those white tablecloth places where we had more than one waiter/waitress. You have forks you don’t – or I don’t – know how to use. 

At the table next to us sat a nice, well-dressed couple, also enjoying a romantic evening. I could tell the couple were struggling with the rocking table. It wobbled whenever they leaned on it.

What did they do?

The well-dressed man leaned over, lifted the table slightly, and stuck a folded napkin underneath the leg. Problem solved.

The two stories working together reminded me of an even greater life principle – far more important than money or wobbly tables. It’s one I hope we all remember. 

While some of us may think we are better than others – when it comes to a wobbly table – we are all the same.

My mom used to say, “Everyone puts there pants on one leg at a time.”

I say, “Everyone fixes a wobbly table with a folded napkin.” (And, sometimes with packages of sugar.) 

God says, “Don’t think you are better than you really are.” (Romans 12:3)

Have you been looking down others who have less than you? Maybe who don’t share your opinions or agree with your views? Have you judged people unfairly based on your expectations of them? 

Be honest. We can all be guilty of it at some level.

God, continue to mold us into who you want us to be – seeing others as you see them.

Peace Often Comes Through Obedience

Man walking barefood on the beach

Are you struggling with a “word from God”?

Do you feel there is something you need to do, but you aren’t quite certain about it yet?

Do you wish you had greater “peace” before you struck out to follow a dream – a dream you feel is God-given?

Are you sensing a desire to plant a church, revitalize a church, launch a new ministry effort, or surrender to vocational ministry?

If any of those or a similar scenario is your current story I may have a word of encouragement for you – or perhaps a word of challenge.

In my experience, peace often doesn’t come until obedience begins.

Seldom do I have complete peace prior to beginning to obey what I sense God is calling me to do.

Many times the direction God appears to be leading me doesn’t make sense. I’m restless. I don’t sleep well. I may even question myself and what I’m sensing.

I’ve previously written steps I take to discern God’s will (You can read that HERE and HERE), but after I’ve done those processes, and I’m still sensing God’s leading, the next place for me hasn’t always been an overwhelming sense of peace. The next place for me is one of obedience.

I’ve learned I may have to get my feet wet (Read Joshua 3) before the waters begin to part and peace begins to fill my heart.

When we agreed with God (and the search committee) He was calling us to leave an enormously successful church plant to go to an established 100 plus year old church almost a third of the size – where budgets were stretched and I was expected to preach three times as much and visit far more hospital beds – and to wear a tie on Sunday – it was difficult to get peace about any of those things.

It wasn’t until we agreed, and I showed up to tell the leadership of our church plant we were leaving where God gave me an overwhelming sense of peace. I had to obey first though.

To finish the story, we are a different church in many ways today. I preach once a week and very rarely have on a tie. And, the church has grown beyond our imaginations and the budget is healthy. But, we couldn’t see all this going into the process.

Are you in one of those times of discernment? Do you sense God’s leading? Do you believe God is calling you to a new level of faith and dependence on Him?

The next step may be to get your feet wet.

Improve this post. Share your stories of where peace came in obedience.

Pick Up Your Mat and Walk!

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Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” John 5:8

In order to appreciate the value of Jesus’ command, you need to consider the culture of the day. Today, although some may feel we don’t do enough, there are limited opportunities for the physically handicapped to work and lead productive lives. In Christ’s time on earth, the handicapped were outcast. They lived off handouts they could obtain from begging.

In the above instance, the man had been crippled for a long time. Probably the only possessions he had were the clothes on his back and the mat on which he lay. The mat was almost a symbol of the only hope in his life. His existence was one to be pitied. There was no known cure for what ailed him (except Jesus), and even if there had been, he certainly couldn’t have afforded it.

Jesus had sympathy for the man, and with the spoken word, the man was healed. Jesus told him to “Get up!” Take his mat and walk. Obviously, this was a gift greater than anything money could have bought.

Whenever I read this verse, this question comes to mind:

What mat am I holding on to today?

This man was holding on to his mat. It had surely become a treasured possession to him. He slept on it, rested on it, and watched the world pass by on it. He couldn’t have imagined facing the day without it. Jesus tells him to pick it up and walk. When Jesus was finished with the man, he didn’t need the mat anymore. It would take faith to trust Jesus and attempt to walk, but the victory was worth it all. Instead of a mat of hope, this man had the hope of Christ!

What would Jesus have you and I pick up today? What are you holding on to tightly as your only hope?

  • Money
  • Health
  • Relationships
  • Hobbies
    • I think Jesus was telling the man to pick up his mat because he wouldn’t need it anymore. He wouldn’t need a place to beg, to worry, to suffer. He needed no more dependence on a mat. He had found the Healer!

      And, I think even today – whatever you are holding on to tighter than your faith, I believe Jesus would say, “Pick up your mat and walk!”

      If we aren’t careful our mats can become our hope rather than our hope being in Christ.

      Our goal should be to trust Him with we trust in most. We are to allow Him to carry our burdens, strengthen our walk and brighten our future.

      Jesus wants to help you – and, the best way He can do this is lead you to trust Him more. Listen for His command to pick up your mat and walk!

7 Ways to Stop Gossip

gossip

In my job, I hear far more junk than I care to hear sometimes.

One part of the drama of messiness which always frustrates me is how gossip begins about other people’s problems. As if dealing with the consequences of sin is not enough, many times the hardest repercussion is the gossip which occurs about the people involved and the situation which occurred.

I have been the victim of unfair gossip. I know the pain it can cause. I have never found gossip to be helpful to the people involved or to the Kingdom of God. Gossip has become something I hate, because I have seen it destroy so many people!

Gossip hurts innocent people who are caught in the middle, it exaggerates the situation, and it keeps the one who did wrong loaded with guilt and frustration, and from experiencing the fullness of God’s grace.

(Consider these passages: Proverbs 11:13, Proverbs 16:28, Proverbs 20:19, Proverbs 26:20, Romans 1:29, 2 Corinthians 12:20, 1 Timothy 5:13 – the Bible talks a great deal about this issue.)

With this in mind, I’m listing 7 suggestions for stopping, or at least slowing, the spread of gossip.

Will you consider each and internalize them – as needed?

If the shoe fits will you wear it?

Together, perhaps we can help stop the deadly spread of this harmful virus!

Here are 7 ways to stop gossip:

Don’t repeat something unless you know it to be true first hand.

Second hand knowledge is not enough to justify repeating something. You will get something wrong and it will hurt others. By the way, reading it on Facebook does not make it true.

Don’t repeat unless it is helpful to do so, you have a vested interest and permission.

Never share another person’s story unless you have permission to share or what your sharing is equally your story as to the other person’s. It is almost always gossip if anything is shared otherwise.   

Don’t “confess” other people’s sins.

Unless you are in physical danger – even if the wrong included you and you feel the need to confess, share your story, but not someone else’s. Doing so in the name of a prayer request is not a good excuse.

If you must tell, and have passed the test on the first three suggestions, tell only what happened.

Do not share your commentary on the situation or your “I think this is probably what happened” or why you think it happened. Just the facts – as you know them to be true.

Choose to pray for others every time you are tempted to tell their story.

Instead of telling their story – instead of spreading gossip – pray for them and your willpower not to share anything you shouldn’t.

When someone tells you something you don’t need to know, don’t allow curiosity to be your guide.

Stop the person and tell them you don’t want to know! Remember, if they will spread gossip about others they will spread it about you!

Keep the circle of confession limited to the people involved or to no more than needed for accountability purposes.

Even when it is your story you usually don’t have to tell the world. The wider the circle and the more the story is repeated the more likely things will turn into gossip – and, the more people who will be injured.

If my tone seems intent about the issue it’s because I am. I have little patience for gossips. My desire is to see people live in healthy community together. Gossip is a betrayer of this becoming reality.

Please chime into the discussion to help make my case here. What else would you add?

Your Life Can Change In One Day

shepherd

One day Moses was tending the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro… (Exodus 3:1)

It apparently began as a normal day for Moses. In the morning, Moses set out, as he had many years, to tend to his father-in-law’s flock of sheep. Shepherding was a dirty, thankless job, but it was Moses’ livelihood and so in typical fashion, he began another day’s work. As the story goes, however, it was not a normal day for Moses. This particular day would change the course of Moses’ life forever.

If you know the story in Exodus 3, this was the day Moses met God in the burning bush.

This was the day God recruited Moses for Kingdom service. This was the day Moses became the chief representative for God to the Israelites. Beginning this day, Moses led the people out of Egypt towards the Promise Land. Along the way, God used Moses to lead the people through a parted sea, deliver the 10 Commandments, and feed the people with manna and quail.

Oh yea, and Moses got to speak to a rock and watch as water poured out also. Moses life was never the same from this one day forward.

The story of Moses is a great reminder to me of the power contained within a day.

In one day, a life can be changed. One change of direction can alter a person’s future for good or bad. One new resolve, one decision to do the right thing (or the wrong thing), or one personal conviction can alter the outcome of a person’s life in positive or negative ways.

This thought really leaves me with one question for you:

How are you allowing your “one days” to shape your life?

Is there something in your life you know you need to be doing, some change of direction you need to make, some new commitment, but so far, you have not been obedient to what you know to do?

Could this be a day you surrender to the will of God for your life?

Will this be the day you begin to head your life in the direction you actually want it to end?

Will the resolve you make today carry you towards the vision you have for your life?

Life altering decisions usually begin “one day”.

Is this your day?