Monday, May 11, 2020

Impromptu Leadership

The book of Joshua begins with God telling Joshua,“Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them…" (Joshua 1:2) Moses, the greatest leader in their national history is gone, now you’re going to lead the entire nation into battle…now.

Life comes at you fast doesn’t it?  We spend a lot of our lives trying to stay in our comfort zones and avoid uncontrollable circumstances, but once in a while it sneaks up on you.  The journey that Joshua was about to embark on was anything but safe; it was probably something closer to terrifying.  But God had more to say than just “go.”  His instructions to Joshua continue, “Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.  Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:6-9)

As you consider the challenges that lie ahead of you.  Leading your family, facing your fear, running a business, battling illness, fighting for your marriage, etc…What do you imagine God would say to you right now?  I’d imagine something like, Be strong and courageous, I am with you, do not be afraid, do not be discouraged…

You were made for more than safety.  You were made for purpose.  Ephesians 2:10 says that God created us for good plans that He laid down long before we were ever born.  Be strong and courageous.  Fight for your purpose.  Whatever God has given you responsibility for, take charge, today.  Because some things are more important than simply staying safe and waiting for status quo to play out in front of us while we watch from the sidelines.

Monday, May 4, 2020

Marriage: The Ultimate Roller Coaster

As my wife Brandi and I sat on the roller coaster, waiting for the ride to begin, I had the same thoughts a lot of parents have when they get on a carnival ride.  Is this a good idea? Is this dangerous? What if something goes wrong? What will happen to our kids if we die on this roller coaster?  Thankfully, my reasonable self took over within a few seconds.

Then it occurred to me that this roller coaster is the perfect metaphor for marriage. Other than a total anomaly—like a meteor striking the coaster or a crack in the earth opening in the middle of the amusement park—there’s only two predictable ways one of us could get permanently wounded: 1. Reaching outside the boundaries of our dedicated space or 2. Jumping off the ride all together.  Truthfully, if we just stay committed to the boundaries that are clearly established, there’s almost no chance of getting hurt.  According to the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions, your chances of being injured on a roller coaster are roughly 1 in 24,000,000; chances of being killed are 1 in 750,000,000.¹

I think the imagery speaks for itself, but I’ll go for it anyway. 
1. There’s nothing good for you outside the established boundaries of your marriage.  You took vows; the boundaries of faithfulness have been clearly established.  There’s nothing but injury and pain waiting for you outside the boundaries of physical and emotional faithfulness to your spouse.
2. The surest way to do life-long damage is jump out.  If you jump out of a moving roller coaster, I promise that the scares will last the rest of your life (which, may not be all that long if you jump out of a moving carnival ride).  I suppose there’s always the possibility that jumping out is the best alternative—like if the coaster spontaneously burst into flames—but that’s going to be an extremely rare circumstance.  You know who’s most likely to jump off off a roller coaster?  A crazy person. 

The good news about both of these pitfalls is that avoiding them doesn’t require action; it requires inaction.  Commitment to stay, not go.  Commitment to be undeterred.  There are many investments that need to be made in order to have a flourishing marriage, and it’s a lifelong process.  Avoiding these two easily avoidable catastrophes will ensure that you have the chance to make those investments.


Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Own Your Attitude

Romans 15:5 says May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had…

Being placed in an uncomfortable or stressful situation always seems to bring out either the best or the worst in us.  Maybe you’re feeling the weight of responsibility for employees or for supporting your family.  Maybe you’re feeling the pressure to work from home and homeschool the kids.  Maybe you're a highly social person like me and the isolation is driving you out of your mind.  Whatever the dynamics of your situation, at least you know that we’re all going through our own version of the same struggle.

While coronavirus is probably not your fault, and job loss is not your fault, and the lack of toilet paper is not your fault (if it is you should probably keep that information on the DL), there’s a lot of dynamics that are not your fault and are beyond your ability to control.  But here’s what you can control: your attitude.

Whether you accept it or not, you own your attitude.  Your attitude toward the situation, toward the people at the store, toward the media, toward politicians, toward the other people locked down in your house…your attitude is  your responsibility.  Consider what John Maxwell said about our attitudes: “The greatest day in your life and mine is when we take total responsibility for our attitudes. That's the day we truly grow up.”

Here’s my encouragement: Own your attitude.  Don’t criticize, empathize.  Think like a victor, not a victim.  Be patient, not pushy; grateful not grumpy.  Have the same attitude toward others, that Jesus had.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Raising Independent Kids

Here’s a question for parents: When your kids are no longer dependent on you, what will they be dependent on?

I've been thinking quite a bit about legacy, which I discussed in my post Legacy Starts Now.  My parenting conviction, as my kids inch closer to adulthood, is that I'm slowly but surely transitioning my kids from being dependent on me, to being dependent on God.  This transition is perhaps the most critical task I'll  endeavor in this life.

This is my most important undertaking.  This is my great adventure; my Everest.  This is an incredible privilege, to take what God has given me and turn it back toward Him.  This is my act of love for my children.  This my truest form of worship to God.

If we as parents, have successfully transitioned our kids from dependence on us to dependence on God, then we can leave this life behind when the time comes without fear for them.  When the time comes, hopefully a long time from now, they'll be able to let mom and dad go without fear of their own. 
Some transitions take longer than others and some take a lifetime; every child is different.  But no matter how old they are or how their transition to knowing Jesus intimately is going, a parent's mission is to fight for them.  I can assure you it won't be easy, but what could possibly be more important? 

God willing, they’ll fly the nest with the confidence of knowing that God’s goodness and love will be right there with them on the way out and no matter what happens in this life, when it’s over, they’ll live in His house forever.

Psalm 23:6  Surely Your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

What Are We Doing?

“What are we doing?”  It’s a critical question that every leader and every organization needs to be able to answer.  Without a clear answer a leader isn’t leading and an organization or company is simply wandering aimlessly.  Without a defined target, you’re basically left hoping for a happy accident; not exactly a sure thing.

At Center Church we have a succinct answer: Helping People Know Jesus.  If anyone comes into contact with Center Church and wonders what we’re about, that’s it.

There’s also a succinct reason: Knowing Jesus is the gateway to every good thing that God wants to do in your life.  Jesus said, “No one comes to the Father, except through Me.” (John 14:6)  If that’s a true statement, then there simply is no other way to enter God’s Plan-A for your life than through a relationship with Jesus. 

Our passion is to help as many people as possible enter into God’s Plan-A for their lives through a relationship with Jesus.  This is why things like, telling people what God has done in your life, inviting friends and family to church, living as godly example and walking with God daily matter; because if you’ve come into a relationship with Jesus, you have a God-given purpose to help people know Jesus too.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Leadership Lesson From Abraham

What principle could I, an average husband, dad and all-all-around normal guy, possibly apply from the life of Abraham; one of the most influential people in the history of humanity?  I mean truthfully, I’m just trying to love my wife and kids to the best of my ability and use my God-given gifts and abilities to good work with my life.  So how can I really be like Abraham?

I don’t consider myself an extraordinary human being, but I do consider myself a leader.  I lead in my family, I lead in my community, I lead in my church, etc…and so do you.  In very many ways, you probably have more leadership influence than you think you do, and Abraham teaches us something critical (many things really) about how to be an effective leader.

The Abrahamic Leadership Principle is simple (btw, I just made that name up but it sounds like a real thing, doesn’t it?): God has given you gifts and abilities to lead and influence other lives, but those gifts and abilities are meaningless unless you use them to benefit others.  

Being in a position of authority is empowering.  Everyone enjoys the opportunity to be one of the cool kids and have a voice and decision-making power, but there’s nothing more annoying than someone in authority who’s self-absorbed.  Case and point, just look to the national leaders of both major political parties in America right now.  All most of us want them to do is stop talking and start serving the actual needs of actual people.

If your authority position terminates on you and your benefit, you’ll be like the loud kid in high school who everyone thought was cool and now has no idea where he is and probably doesn’t care where he is.  By definition, leadership can only be “leadership” if it involves influencing others.  Abraham spent his life moving others toward God’s Plan-A for them. He could have spent it comfortably in the palace instead but if he had, we would never have heard his name and any opportunity his leadership to be significant would have been lost.

Abraham's choice to live and lead for the benefit of others instead live for his own comfort shows us the delineation between success and significance. He had success as a prince, living in the palace.  But he chose to live a life that actually mattered by prioritizing the blessing of those he led instead of using his position solely for himself.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Legacy Starts Now

I'm planning, hoping mostly, that at the end of my life I'll be able to leave a little bit of money and/or assets as a blessing to my kids.  I'm taking some steps now to ensure, God willing, that the end of my life is as little of a burden to them as possible.  (Kids, if you're reading this, I'm a vocational pastor so there won't be a trust fund; sorry.  I hope that doesn't come as a shock.)

As I get older and so do my kids, the question of legacy becomes more of a relevant issue.  I have no idea how my life will end, but one thing I know for sure is that my kids' biggest need isn't money. Right now they're not directly dependent on it at all; they have almost no need for their own financial resources. They just know that their parents will account for their needs.  When they have need of a material thing, they ask one of us.  Sometimes we say "no," but they have never been without a necessity.

Right now, I'm training them to slowly be less dependent on my wife and I.  I think that is a the fundamental role of a parent: raising our kids to be independent of us.  Someday in the not-so-distant future, they won't need me anymore and I'm good with that.

This process of raising our kids to leave home and be independent of us, begs a question for parents:  Other than money, what kind of legacy do you want to leave for your children?

I'm not anticipating my parents leaving me any money (though I'll take it if they do), but they have already cemented their legacy in my mind.  They taught me how to be faithful to God and ferociously devoted to my wife and kids.  They showed me how to turn the most awful situation (like, losing a child) into a redemptive part of their story.  What do you want your legacy to be?

Psalm 90:12 says, Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom. NLT   Life is short.  Just ask anyone who's currently in their 70's or 80's and they'll confirm that truth.  What things will spring to life for future generations from the seed you're currently planting?  Perhaps your true greatness will only be seen when future generations sit in the shade of trees you planted knowing that you'd never personally enjoy the shade for yourself?  

Life is, in fact, short.  Don't wait until you can see the finish line to begin building your legacy as a firm foundation for future generations.

Impromptu Leadership

The book of Joshua begins with God telling Joshua, “Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the J...