Friday, August 31, 2012

5 Great Questions to Discern Life Change

How do you know if you're making the right move?  Bill Blankschaen shared the following 5 questions to discern a life change:

1.  Are you centered on what matters most?
2.  Are you clear on your calling?
3.  Are you growing where you are?
4.  Are you running from ____________?
5.  Are you willing to move forward?

Read the entire post here via Ed Stetzer.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

20 Ways to Love Your Job

As Labor Day approaches, I believe it is appropriate to address a significant work related issue. A recent Gallup Poll says 71% of people hate their jobs (other polls even claim figures as high as 80%.) Now, with so much job hating going around, and it seems like something should be done about it.

If you hate your job, then you are the somebody who should do something about it. Things won’t get better if you just sit around wishing it would.

Now, I understand that some work environments are toxic and intolerable. In situations like that, the best thing you can do is seek an exit strategy. If you really hate your job that bad, then look for another one.
Often, however, job dissatisfaction has much more to do with the worker’s attitude, than the dysfunctional environment. It is with this basis of understanding that I propose the following suggestions for learning to love your job:

1) Examine your attitude. Are you allowing negativity to poison your spirit towards those you work with? If so, the problem may be more about you than it is about them.

2) Start your day with prayer. Ask God to guide you and guard your spirit. Try this prayer, “God, help me to receive the people you send to me as a gift.”

3) Adjust your attitude. Try to focus on the positives rather than the negatives.

4) Make it your goal to make someone else’s day. Do something extra that makes someone smile. You’ll smile too.

5) Speaking of smiling – if you’re feeling grumpy, then smile for 16 seconds straight. You will feel better.

6) Keep a realistic “To Do List.” This will keep you from being overwhelmed, and you will feel good as you progress and mark things off the list.

7) Do the most important things first. Trivial things have a way of gobbling up time, and adding unnecessary pressure.

8) Plan ahead. When you fail to plan ahead, other people will dictate your agenda. Planning brings order to the day, week, and month.

9) Get your schedule under control. To do this, you must think further down the road. Instead of asking, “What shall I do today?” it is far better to ask “What shall I do this week?”, and even better, “What shall I do this year?” Start as far out as you can, and work backwards from there.

10) Put breathing space in your schedule. Just as a campfire fizzles out when the logs are too close together, your life needs “breathing space” to burn brightly.

11) Delegate. Are you doing things that someone else ought to be doing? How can you help them do it?

12) Be flexible. If you’re rigid and uptight, you’ll always be upset. Just go with the flow when things don’t work out the way you expected. That’s just a part of life, and not worth expending the energy to fight. Just shrug your shoulders, smile and say, “Stuff Happens!”

13) Put value into it. Regardless of your work, it is important, or you would not be paid to do it. Remember, your contribution is important – even if others don’t see it. Give it your best shot and add value to the organization
14) Befriend your co-workers, while remembering you have a job to do.

15) Share concerns but don’t get sucked into drama.

16) Refuse to participate in gripe or gossip sessions. If you have a genuine concern, then bring it to the person who can do something about it, and don’t broadcast it. Shared negativity compounds and increases negativity. Your work environment won’t get any better through gripe sessions.

17) Don’t over-react. When you’re emotions are taking over, step back, take a deep breath, and try to respond maturely.

18) Say “Please” and “Thank You” often.

19) Practice patience and be respectful of every co-worker and customer.

20) At the end of the day – stop! You don’t need to carry it all home with you. For a few years, I carried my work home with me and stewed about it all evening. Then, after an “awakening” I realized I needed to quit that. It was unhealthy for me and unhelpful to my family. I decided to use the stop sign on my way home from work as my stopping point. As I drove to the sign, I dumped the problems, worries and challenges off at the sign, figuring that if they were important enough, they would be there waiting for me the next morning. That little exercise saved my sanity, and helped me have a much happier family life.

Monday, August 27, 2012

If You Go, They Will Come

Early in my ministry, I taped the following note to myself on my desk:  "If you go, they will come."

In other words, if I go out to where people live Monday through Saturday, I'm much more likely to see them at church on Sunday morning.

The view of the world is extremely limited from behind a desk.  Get out there and see the world from the other side.  (As a church grows, the increasing administrative responsibilities make this much more difficult - -though it is still essential for effective, transformational ministry.)

In yesterday's sermon, Andreas Schroeter, missionary to the LCO Reservation who is soon departing for his home in Germany challenged us to be both missional and incarnational.  Missional means "joining Jesus in his mission field" and incarnational means "sharing your life and their culture."

As my friend, Mike Engle recently noted, "The Gospels recorded 132 contacts Jesus had with people -- 6 were in the Temple -- 4 were in Synagogues -- 122 were with people in their daily walks of life."

Saturday, August 25, 2012

One Time, That Time, All Time

"A former professor at IWU used to say that some of the commands of Scripture were for 'one time' (go sell everything you have), some were for 'that time' (women veil your heads), and some were for 'all time' (love your neighbor). "

-- Ken Schenck in a wonderful, thought-provoking post, Look for the All Time.

I found this wisdom to be helpful in navigating and interpreting the Bible.  The only challenge is trying to figure out which part is which.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Don't Shrink Back from Change -- Live into It!

Change is a part of life -- and when you quit changing, you're through!  Though change is uncomfortable, we need to embrace it to thrive.  

Those who expend energy maintaining status quo, soon discover it's an uphill battle, going downhill fast.

Life is far more rewarding when we live into change rather than shrinking back from it.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Hitting the Wall in Ministry?

David Drury is an outstanding leader, minister, and writer.  He serves as Chief of Staff for the General Officers at the Wesleyan International Center.  I've been especially impacted by Soulshift, a book he wrote recently with Steve DeNeff.

David is also a prolific blogger, and I appreciated his plug last week for my book, Filled Up, Poured Out: How God's Spirit Can Revive Your Passion and Purpose, in the following post -- Hitting the Wall in Ministry?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Jesus: A Theography

Frank Viola
I'm looking forward to reading Jesus: A Theography, by a couple of my favorite writers, Frank Viola and Leonard Sweet, which is now available for pre-order.  It promises to be as good -- even better than Jesus Manifesto, the last work they penned together -- and one of the best books I've read recently.
What follows is a description from Frank Viola's blog, which I frequent regularly, a starred review by Publishers Weekly, the Table of Contents, a sample chapter, and pre-ordering links.

Back Cover Description

But what does that mean exactly?
In this compelling work, authors Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola reclaim the entire Bible as a gripping narrative about Jesus Christ.
Virtually every other “Jesus biography” begins with the nativity account in Bethlehem. In this groundbreaking book, Sweet and Viola begin before time, in the Triune God, and tell the complete interconnected story of Jesus from Genesis to Revelation.
Jesus: A Theography is the first book ever written to combine historical Jesus studies with biblical theology, crafting together one breath-taking saga that tells the Jesus story in both Old and New Testaments. This flagship book demonstrates clearly that every bit of Scripture is part of the same stunning drama, what the authors refer to as the theography of Jesus Christ.
The twenty-seven books of the New Testament are largely a commentary on the Old Testament, and each part of the Bible is a signpost to Jesus. Once this is properly understood, everything changes, including our own identities. In this magisterial work you will discover Jesus who is larger, more glorious, and more challenging than most of us have ever imagined.
Biographies of Jesus generally have been written by those trying to investigate the historical Jesus, with little attention given to the grand narrative of Scripture. On the flip side, those interested in tracing the theology of Scripture are typically disinterested in historical Jesus studies. These two approaches have yet to converge. . . until now.
Jesus: A Theography is written for the average reader as well as scholars. Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola (authors of Jesus Manifesto) unfold the greatest story ever told in a fresh and invigorating way.
So whether you are a seasoned Christian, a new believer, or someone who is intrigued by Jesus, this book unveils the discoveries of a lifetime, transforming the tired and familiar way we have read the Bible into an electrifying journey of rediscovering Christ.

Starred Review from Publishers Weekly

The man we know as Jesus of Nazareth continues to fascinate us as new insights into his life and ministry appear at a breakneck pace. Add to this heady mix this important new work, a theological biography by two fine expositors of scripture. Their thesis is simple: for Christians, the theme of scripture from Genesis to Revelation is Jesus Christ, his ministry and teaching.
The authors insist that “reading Scripture through a theological lens” gives the reader a fuller and more comprehensive view of the biblical text. Although the focus is on a new reading of the gospels, the authors reach back into the Old Testament and show how its people and stories informed and guided Jesus in his mission.
And all of this is to demonstrate how an omniscient God has worked through history, and through history’s actors, to bring about his purposes, and how “the Jesus story recapitulates and replays the major biblical dramas and narratives of the Hebrew Scriptures.” This is an excellent work every thoughtful Christian will find profitable. (Oct. 2012)

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Jesus Story
1. Christ Before Time
2. Christ in Creation: The Macro Version
3. Christ in Creation: The Micro Version
4. Jesus’ Birth and Boyhood
5. Jesus’ Missing Years
6. Jesus’ Preparation for Ministry
7. Jesus’ Baptism and Temptation
8. Jesus Chooses His Disciples
9. Jesus’ Mission Statement
10. Jesus: Healer and Miracle-Worker
11. Jesus: Teacher and Preacher
12. The Human Jesus
13. Jesus’ Trial and Crucifixion
14. The Atonement and the Harrowing of Hell
15. The Resurrection, Ascension, and Pentecost
16. The Return of the King
Conclusion: The Jesus Spirit
Appendix: Post-Apostolic Witnesses

What Tomorrow Holds

I don't know what tomorrow holds, but I know WHO holds tomorrow!

What an assurance for God's children.  He holds us -- and that means we're in good hands.

Reflecting on this beautiful truth this morning, I was reminded of this old Gospel song by Forest Stamphill:

I Don't Know About Tomorrow

I don't know about tomorrow,
I just live from day to day.
I don't borrow from its sunshine,
For its skies may turn to gray.
I don't worry o'ear the future,
For I know what Jesus said,
And today I'll walk beside Him,
For He knows what is ahead.

Many things about tomorrow,
I don't seem to understand;
But I know Who holds tomorrow,
And I know Who holds my hand.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Hayward Locals Should Act Like Tourists

A recent visitor from Chicago said, "I wish I could just quit my job and live in Hayward full time. It would be like living in heaven!"

I smiled, and thought, "He sure doesn't know what it's like to live here!"

Later, relating this conversation to a Hayward native, I said, "Poor fellow doesn't realize that living in the Northwoods is a far cry from vacationing here."

To this, my Hayward friend replied, "If that's the way it is for you, then you're doing it wrong."

"I think the citizens of Hayward ought to act like tourists," he continued, "We should take advantage of all our community has to offer! We should jump in the lake, canoe down the Namekagon, hike in the Chequamegon Forest, go fishing, attend the Lumberjack Show, and buy candy at Trembley's. We should travel the bike path, drink java at Backroads, go camping, feast at Famous Dave's, window shop on Main Street, drive go karts, play mini-golf, and have homemade ice cream at West's Dairy"

"We live in a glorious place,” he continued, “and it's a sad shame if we don't make the most of it!"

His response hit me right between the eyes! Of course! Why didn't I see it before? Here we are, living in one America's most beautiful communities -- and we end up too busy to enjoy it.

My friend is right. The good folks from Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa and Indiana are willing to drive for hours to get what we have in our own backyard! Let's take advantage of this wonderful opportunity!

One of the great things Hayward offers is a chance to slow down, relax and recharge. Nature provides a good place to reflect on life. “The Wilderness,” as Nancy Wynne Newhall observed, “holds answers to more questions than we have yet learned to ask.” One does not need to be a tourist to experience that.

Of course, we must work to make a living -- but can't we work in context? Can't we pause, relax, and be grateful for living in such a beautiful place? Quiet reflection will improve both our work and attitude.

"Follow effective action with quiet reflection." advised Peter Drucker, "From quiet reflection will come even more effective action."

Friday, August 17, 2012

Vultures and Humming Birds

‎"You can be like a vulture that looks for and feeds on road-kill. Or you can be like a hummingbird that searches for and feeds on nectar each day. It's up to you, because you will find what you search for. You decide the destination of your mind. Choose to watch for places God is working." - Craig Groeschel

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Trusting Through the Tunnel

"When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don't throw away the ticket and jump off.  You sit still and trust the engineer." -- Corrie Ten Boom

"Faith is deliberate confidence in the character of God whose ways you may not understand at the time." -- Oswald Chambers

"Confidence in the captain brings calmness in the cabin."  --  Filled Up, Poured Out

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

What Every Leader Struggles With

Perry Noble shared a great post -- Nine Things Every Leader Struggles With (And How to Overcome Them.)  This post is Part One -- so only half are listed here. . . more to follow.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Church Leadership Breakfast

This Friday, August 17, I'll be speaking at a Church Leadership Breakfast sponsored by the Minnesota Church Ministries Association.

It will be held at Crosspoint Church (9801 France Ave, Bloomington) from 8:30 to 10:00 a.m.

Cost is $5.00, plus donation.

I'll be speaking on themes from my book, Filled Up, Poured Out: How God's Spirit Can Revive Your Passion and Purpose.  The public is invited.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Power of a Compelling Vision

Little Jimmy’s mother came into his room one night to tuck him into bed, and found him staring out the window, into the evening sky.

“What are you doing, honey?” she asked.

“I’m looking at the moon.”

“Well, Jimmy, it’s time to stop staring at the moon and go to bed.”

“Mommy, one day I am going to walk on the moon.”

“Sure Jimmy, now go to bed.”

32 years later Jimmy (James Irwin) actually did it! He reached the moon on Apollo 15. Not only did he step on the moon’s surface – one of the very few humans to accomplish this feat – but he also drove the first Lunar Rover.

First, Jimmy dreamed it – then, Jimmy did it! There is tremendous power in a compelling vision.
An unknown philosopher said, “Do not follow where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

So, how do we find a compelling vision?
  1. Look Up. Pray and listen. All faith-inspiring dreams come from above.
  1. Look Down. What have your failures and painful experiences taught you? Failure isn’t final if you learn something from it. The greatest growth occurs in the darkest valleys.
  1. Look Inside Yourself. Explore your unique gifts, passions and abilities. Do you love your work? If not, what kind of work would you love? What activities give you energy (green light) vs. activities that drain you (red light).
  1. Look Around. What is your current reality? What needs to be changed? What first steps should you take? What are your friends telling you? How would you advise someone else in your situation?
  1. Look Back. Where have you been successful in the past? What has given you the greatest reward and fulfillment? Has there ever been a moment when you thought, “I was born for this”? What have you learned from your experiences?
  1. Look Ahead. Where do you want to go? Will the path you’re currently on take you there? What do you hope to accomplish in life? What do you want to have written in your obituary? What action must you take now to achieve your goal later?
“Whatever you do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, and power and magic in it.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

When You've Bitten Off More Than You Can Chew

Occasionally, all of us find ourselves overloaded. Sometimes, it’s the result of circumstances beyond our control. Mostly, however, it’s because of poor energy/time management on our part. As Momma used to day, “You’ve bitten off more than you can chew!”

This is particularly true for “can do” people with a bias for “yes.” They get a lot accomplished, and occasionally find themselves swamped in the process.

As one of those “can do – bias for yes” people, I’ve found myself in that condition numerous times along the way. I’ve gleaned a few insights from those experiences, and offer a few suggestions to consider when you’ve bitten off more than you can chew.

1) Ask yourself – “Why am I doing this?”
We assume unnecessary responsibilities because we don’t want to disappoint someone, or because we haven’t mastered the art of gracious refusal. If you don’t have a good reason why you’re carrying the load, that’s a good clue that you shouldn’t have picked it up in the first place. Of course, if you made a commitment to do something, you should go ahead and get it done – but learn the valuable lesson in it, so you won’t repeat the same mistake in the future.

2) Say “Maybe” first instead of “Yes.”
Often, the reason why we’re swamped is because we said “yes” without thinking it through. Some people start with “no” and work to “yes.” Others start with “yes” and work to “no.” The better approach is to start with “maybe” – and then process it honestly and thoroughly.

3) Break Big Projects Down into Smaller Chunks.
Our riding lawnmower broke down this summer, and we really don’t want to spend the cash to replace it this year – which means a ton of push-mowing for my boys and me. At first, the task seemed overwhelming – but we broke the lawn down into five smaller sections, divided the duties out amongst us, and it made the task manageable. Big projects and responsibilities are like that. At first, they can loom like an enormous mountain - -but if you break them down into little molehills, they’re much less daunting.

“I’m so hungry I could eat an elephant!” a man said.
“How on earth could you eat an elephant?” his friend replied.
“One bite at a time!”

4) Stop Avoiding and Get Started!
Avoiding a task takes more energy than just facing it, rolling up your sleeves and getting to work. It’s amazing what you can do if you just put your mind to it, and get into gear. Valuable energy is wasted when we fret and stew over all we need to accomplish. Stop stewing and start working on it! You’ll be further ahead at the end of the day.

5) Delegate, Delegate, Delegate.
Is there someone else who can help? Could another person do this job 80% as well as you? Then give it to them! When speaking to pastors on the art of delegation, I often have them write down all the duties and responsibilities that need to be fulfilled in the congregation. Then I ask, “Who is responsible to do that job?” Many pastors discover that they carry responsibility for far too many tasks, which actually wars against their overall effectiveness. I encourage them to find others to fulfill most of these duties – and then become their coach and cheerleader. The volunteers receive the satisfaction of purposeful and meaningful service, and the pastor avoids burnout.

6) Build Breathing Space into your Schedule.
Especially if you are stressed out and overloaded by enormous burdens, you need to build in breathing space. Actually write it into your calendar – just like you would a doctor’s appointment – “breathing space.” Time spent re-charging is really an investment rather than an expenditure. If you don’t have time to take an afternoon or evening – then take an hour. If you don’t have time to take an hour, then take 15 minutes. We’re not too bright when we burn the candle at both ends!

7) Make it a Temporary Tunnel.
Sometimes, regardless of how we arrange things, we still find ourselves in an ultra-demanding situation. In times like this it’s important to do two things:
a. Assess the situation by asking, “how can I make this temporary?”
b. Once you’ve figured that you, remind yourself, “this is only temporary!” 

Friday, August 03, 2012

Chuck Warnock Reviews Filled Up, Poured Out

It was a real honor to see such a positive review of Filled Up, Poured Out from Chuck Warnock, noted authority on small church ministry and one of my favorite bloggers:  "Filled Up, Poured Out Overflows With Stories and Insights."

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Two Kinds of Dissenters

Frank Viola posted a fascinating piece on those who challenge the status quo, saying there are two kinds of dissenters:

1)  The Disgruntled Dissenters
2)  The Sober Minded Dissenters

The first is dangerous -- the second is essential.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

The Moorish Kitchen Maid

Recently, while reading Steve Taylor's, The Out of Bounds Church: Learning to Create a Community of Faith in a Culture of Change, I stumbled across a reference to "The Moorish Kitchen Maid", a painting by the great 17th Century Spanish artist, Diego Velazquez.

I found Taylor's description fascinating, so decided to search it out.

The young lady, eavesdropping on Jesus and his two companions as they converse over dinner at Emmaus  (see Luke 24:13-32), is startled as she realizes the identity of their house guest.  The other two haven't figured it out yet.