God’s Patient Love (A Quick Reminder)

iStock_000002309744XSmall“Yet even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.”  Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love… Joel 2:12-13

I love this passage.  I am told this passage has sparked revival in people’s hearts. It certainly does mine.  It did this morning, for example.

I was reminded that God is slow to anger.

He’s not on edge.  He’s not grumpy. He’s not impatient like I am at times.

Human relationships may be like that.  Sometimes we have the shortest tempers with people we love most.

All of us have days when due to stress, illness, worry…we are on edge….

…Sadly, others around us quickly know when we are having a bad day…

God is not like that…

God is gracious and merciful….he abounds in a steady, unchanging, unconditional love…

Today, maybe even for just a couple moments, I am reminded that I can take God all my burdens…He can handle them without fret, with complete patience, and without getting angry at my insufficiencies.

And best of all…He wants me too, because He cares.

Do you have a burden(s) you need to cast His way?

Three Services Sunday at Grace Community Church!

On our fourth anniversary, Grace Community Church will take another giant step of faith.  This Sunday we move add a third service.  Everyone has to change times!

8:30 OR 10:00 OR 11:30  (3 identical services)

Join us at Rossview High School as we kick off a new series, celebrate 4 years, get ready for Operation Serve, and have a great time doing it!

Invite a friend to join you.  We’ll have plenty of seats!

New-Times

Lessons in Wisdom From Rehoboam (1 Kings 12)

In the midst of an incredibly huge decision recently I happened one morning to read 1 Kings 12.  I love when God points me to the exact Scripture I need at the moment.

In this passage Rehoboam refused to listen to wise counsel and instead listened to the “wisdom of the day”.  As you can read for yourself, his decision to ignore healthy advice cost him far more than he could afford to pay.

There are 5 principles I can learn or be reminded of from Rehoboam’s experience:

  • Servant leadership is the model we need to follow and exhibit.  (It was also the model of Jesus.)
  • We need to make sure we are getting our wisdom from the right sources. Who are you listening to these days?  (Read a similar post HERE.)
  • Doing what is right may not always be popular, but it is right.
  • The consequences for failure to follow wisdom are huge.
  • There is natural wisdom that comes from age. (Read a similar post HERE.)

What other lessons do you get from this passage?  Which of these do you need to read most?

God Helps Those Who Cannot Help Themselves!

Occasionally people quote a common saying and ask me where it’s found in the Bible.  I don’t enjoy being the one to tell them that what they have always believed is Biblical, really is just a repeated saying among well meaning people.  My favorite is “God will not put more trials on you than you can bear”.  It certainly sounds good, but that is not exactly what the Bible says.   I wrote a post you might read about that HERE.

Another myth people often say is “God helps those who help themselves.” I would point out the Scripture that says this, but I have not found it. In fact, I think I’m safe in saying that I haven’t found it, because it isn’t there.

While the message sounds good, we need to understand that the only thing we can do to help ourselves so that God will help us is to put our trust in Him to help us! Did I lose you on that one? God wants to help His children. God’s love causes Him to want to bless His children. The thing inside of us, which welcomes His favor, is the love He has for us and the love we have for His Son, not what we have done to help ourselves.

Moses told the Israelites once, before they went into battle, “The Lord will fight for you, you need only to be still.” (Exodus 14:14)  Sometimes our job is not to “help ourselves”, but to be still before the Lord and wait on Him to work His perfect plan in our life.

Perhaps you have been trying to “help yourself” so that God would “help you”. Why not be still, do nothing, wait on the Lord, and let Him help you, in His timing and with His plan, just because you are His child?    The greatest way you can help yourself, might be to humble yourself before the God who wants to bless you. (1 Peter 5:6)

Results of Blog Survey

survey09Recently I added an online survey to my blog to find out a little about my readership.  You can still take the survey HERE.  I appreciate all the responses.  There was about 50% of the average daily readership to answer the survey; so statistically speaking I feel I have a good cross representation of the readers.

Here were some of the results:  (I have added commentary below each group of statistics.)

Faith:

  • 99% consider themselves Christian

(This surprised me somewhat, because I write a lot of general post, but I guess being a pastor limits me primarily to a Christian audience.)

Education:

  • 93% had some college
  • 57% have a bachelor’s degree or higher

(That’s a fairly educated group.  I wonder if this is who reads blogs or is this unique to mine?)

Reader Age:

  • The most common age group is 36 to 45 with 35%
  • Age group 26 to 35 is 29%
  • Age group 46 to 55 is 24%

(I have a younger audience than I realized. That could be due to my childlike behavior at times! J )

Gender:

  • Male   44%
  • Female 56%

(Just curious, is this because girls read more blogs or do I write like a girl?)

Most repeated occupation:

  • Largest number: Pastor or minister
  • Second: Sales or Management
  • Third: Homemaker

(I love to connect with pastors.  I was frankly surprised by the numbers of homemakers reading these posts.  Most of them are not from my church either. Interesting.)

Time reading:

  • 51% have been reading my blog for less than 6 months.

(I am not surprised here. My daily hits have grown considerably in recent months.  Thank you!)

How people have found my blog:

  • I know you personally  13%
  • Twitter  33%
  • Facebook 35%
  • Other referring site   18%
  • Web search   4%

(Facebook and Twitter….Who loves you baby?  Still, I have not been successful at getting other bloggers to link to me.  I am open to suggestions here.  Thankful also to those in my church who read this stuff!)

What people enjoy reading:

  • Leadership    30%
  • Church   17%
  • God    20%
  • Family   25%
  • Personal   15%
  • I love them all    49%

(In recent months, partly due to this survey and comments I had been receiving, I have begun limiting the scope of my writings to a few more specific categories.  Thanks for the feedback.)

I also received tons of great comments and encouragement.    I did receive one comment that said I tend to write things as fact that really are opinion.  I guess that’s because its a personal blog and I tend to believe what I write.  Thanks for your honest feedback from everyone.  I plan to continue blogging as long as you keep reading!!!

Quit Taking Credit For A God Thing!

A few weeks ago, in preparing a message for Grace Community Church in which I celebrated the victories we have seen in the last year at Grace, God convicted me for my line of thinking.  I was preparing to remind people of the strategy of the church, as we do at the beginning of each new fall season, to encourage them to continue giving their time and resources to further the vision.  I believe God gently reminded me that apart from Him, we would have no vision and we would certainly have no success.

Clearly what has happened at our church in the last four years is bigger than any vision, strategy, staff or volunteers could produce.  If we duplicated everything we are doing today elsewhere, we would have no guarantees of success without God’s intervention.  No doubt about it, what we are experiencing at Grace Community Church is a God-thing!  I also know that we are just a small part of all God is doing in many places around the world.

It was a needed reminder and one I wonder if other leaders, especially some of the big name leaders, need to hear.  The greater the success a person has and the more accolades a leader receives, the easier it becomes to begin to take credit for that success.  So, in simple terms, let me encourage you, if the shoe fits, to…

Quit taking credit for a God thing!

We can share wisdom and strategy from what we have learned.  We can write blogs and books to encourage others.  We can be invited to speak around the world about our successes.  People can look to us as “experts” in our field, but let’s be honest as leaders.  Most of us who are experiencing tremendous growths in our churches are…

  • Not better leaders
  • Not better speakers
  • Don’t have a better strategy

Than some who are doing the same things we are doing, but not experiencing similar results.

I will continue to share my experiences.  Frankly I think I have been called to, but honestly, when you look at what is happening in our church, what looks like a God-thing, quite possibly is…actually, there is no question in my mind that it is.

Have you ever been guilty of taking credit, if only in your own mind, for something that truly God has done?

My Two New Heroes (Ben Stroup and Dave Ferguson)

If you want to get on my good side, one sure way is to brag on my boys. If you want to become my hero, invest in them.  Both of my boys are incredible young men.  Both have sensed a calling into ministry at some level.  Both are sorting out what their next steps are that God wants them to take.  Anyone who helps them figure out life at this point ranks high on the list of people I admire.  Using that philosophy I have two new heroes.

Ben Stroup is investing in our oldest son Jeremy by allowing him to intern at Lifeway.  Jeremy is a senior at Austin Peay State University majoring in Corporate Communications with a minor in Leadership. He needs to complete an internship in each. Ben has accepted Jeremy into his department for the leadership internship and is already stretching Jeremy with new ideas and challenges. I look forward to watching Jeremy mature under Ben’s mentoring.  Ben is one of the brightest young men I know in ministry these days and Jeremy can learn a ton from him.

Dave Ferguson
is investing in our youngest son Nate at Moody Bible Institute where he is a freshmen.  I have written about the emotional part of letting Nate go (Read a post HERE), but knowing that he is able to grow in his heart for ministry was an important issue for me.  Going from being extremely active in our church plant to being in the center of Chicago knowing no one was a concern for him and me.  Dave has reached out to Nate months before he even arrived in Chicago.  His emails and connections have encouraged Nate beyond what Dave will ever know.  As connected and popular as Dave is, and understanding the demands of his position well, I am impressed with his accessibility to an 18 year old freshmen in college.  It says a lot about his character and heart.

I hope I can return the favor shown to me by these two fine men by investing in someone’s else’s son.  God bless you both for being Kingdom builders.

Who are you investing in today?

I Don’t Have All The Answers!

As our staff and church has grown, my role is changing.  I spend much more of my day interacting with staff members about their particular area of focus.  Lately it seems I am saying a lot of, “Let me connect you with _________”, as I refer people to another person on our team.

It is a hard reality for me sometimes, but the larger our church grows the more I have to realize…and need others to realize…

I don’t have all the answers.

The good thing is that we have a children’s pastor to know specifics about children’s ministry.  We have a community group pastor who knows specifics about group ministry. Thankfully, in each of our critical areas of ministry we have an expert in that field of ministry who knows details of the ministry.

I frequently get asked very specific questions about certain ministries and my general nature is to provide an answer to people quickly, but the fact is I usually don’t have one anymore. I know generalities, but I don’t know specifics.  I can talk about the vision for a ministry, but not always about the specific elements of the plan to complete the vision.

As our organization grows and changes, so is my individual role within it.  As God stretches me with new responsibilities, I’m attempting to adjust accordingly.

Leaders, are you adapting to the changing environment in your organization?

This Too Shall Pass (The Best Is Yet To Come)

Sometimes all I need is a verse or a phrase of Scripture to get my mind flowing and wrap my arms around all God is teaching me at the moment.  I had one of those moments last week.

Reading in 2 Kings chapter 24, verse 1, the first four words of the verse rocked my world (for a moment).

“In his days, Nebuchadnezzar” 2kings 24:1

In his day Nebuchadnezzar was a king.  He was a well-known King that brought havoc to the Israelites. He was a greatly feared and powerful leader.  At his word nations and people’s could be destroyed (except where God intervened of course).  As greatly as he struck people in fear and awe in his day, I am not too afraid of Nebuchadnezzar today.  The fact is he is dead.  No more. Gone.  Out of sight.  As big and bad as he was then, he is no longer a threat today.

It was a great reminder and one that I needed to read at the time.  Regardless of the circumstances of my life at the time, no matter how desperate the situation may appear, this too shall pass.  Better days are ahead, and in reality, for the believer at least, the best days are yet to come.

I must say that my life is pretty good these days.  God is blessing my immediate family.  Cheryl and I have good health personally. The church is going great, but as a pastor I feel the weight of those around me.  These are hard times for many.

Are you going through a difficult time today?

Read the words of 2 Kings 24 and verse 1 today.  Don’t read too far.  Only four words are needed to remind us that in spite of all our struggles, this too shall pass.

The best is yet to come!

The Encouragement Of Personal Branding

Gold, brandOne trend in organizations today that I am not sure existed even ten years ago is the freedom employees have to promote their personal identity on company time. Companies today seem to allow and actually encourage employees to brand themselves separate from the organization.  Whether it is with a personal blog or through authoring a book, employees can have a larger personal following and name recognition than the top leadership of the organization and at times even greater than the organization.  This is true in the corporate world and the church world.

There are obvious fears or concerns for organizations with this trend.  The more a team member becomes known the more likely it is that he or she will be recruited by another organization.  Also, a concern would be that the increased popularity of the individual could distract from his or her responsibilities to the organization.  Furthermore, though probably not admitted by most senior leaders, there could be a jealousy factor if a subordinate becomes better known and gets more recognition than the leader.

Personally I welcome this change in organizations.  When we started Grace Community Church our worship leader Daniel Doss already had some national recognition and we encouraged his continued growth and success independent of the church.  This sometimes meant we had to adjust schedules to accommodate his outside interests, but I always felt it was for the overall good of the church. Today I am excited about the potential several of our staff members have in creating their own personal brand through their blog and influence and I want to encourage their efforts to market their ministry on a broader scale, even independent of the church.

While I recognize the concerns and know I ultimately have the responsibility to see that the ministry of Grace Community Church is realized, I see several advantages for organizations in allowing personal branding:

It allows great leaders to stay with the organization longer.  If a leader has potential, he or she will naturally look for more opportunities to express his or her leadership skills.  Personal branding allows an avenue for personal growth, while the employee remains with the organization.

It creates a win/win for the organization. As a team member grows personally and he or she receives recognition independent of the organization, the team member’s personal growth means he or she has more to offer the organization and brings more attention, insight, and expertise to the organization.

Allowing personal branding creates a healthier and more rewarding environment within the organization that allows it to occur, which can help the organization attract and retain better leaders to the organization.

Do you see this trend? Can you think of examples of organization where this is happening?  Do you agree or disagree with an organization encouraging personal branding?