Friday, October 31, 2014

Overload Yourself

The overload principle is essential to strength gains and performance increases in our physical health. It's an idea of doing one more repetition or one more set to stretch yourself. I found myself thinking about this while running steps this afternoon and adding another rep at the end of my workout. I didn't expect that one extra run was going to bring drastic, immediate change. I do know that if I continue to add on to what I am doing that I will see the benefits.

I could use this same principle in a lot of other areas of my life too. Taking the the time to talk with my girls for a few more minutes at breakfast, reading one more passage of Scripture, praying for a few more minutes for specific needs, and holding myself to areas of personal discipline when I'm ready to quit will all eventually bring improvement. The truth is that learning to stretch ourselves in small amounts will eventually lead to big gains. It's a matter of focusing on the extra energy needed to push through with a larger benefit in mind.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Stoppage Time

I was sitting at a red light in Macon today while visiting some people and looked ahead to see a string of green lights down the road. There wasn't any traffic coming through my intersection and yet my light had not turned green. I suppose that I could have gone forward to the lights that were in my favor, but there would have been consequences for my impatience.

It's a powerful leadership illustration as well. We might see possibilities farther down the road, but we are currently stopped for some reason. It might be a place of learning, an opportunity for maturity, or the right time to develop patience and perseverance. We can choose to ignore the signal to stop as we look for success, but there are consequences for trying to shortcut the process of developing opportunity. Even though it might appear that our path is clear farther ahead there is still great value in where we are right now.

Don't ignore the power of the present for the enticing appearance of the future.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Power Up

We are desperate for a revolution in our men. We want to empower men to lead with the authority given by God and to guide our families and community towards Him. The solution to so many of our problems is to focus the men of our community on Christ and His deep desire to transform us. We need to "power up" our men to be ready to lead.

I know that this is the answer and I will readily admit that we are not entirely sure of how to make that a reality in our community. We believe so much in this necessity, however, that I have asked our leadership team to enter into a time of prayer and meditation. We are gathering in unity to pray over a specific list for the next three weeks as we ask God to give us a vision for what is next. Any strong movement of God must begin with prayer. 

What do you need to be praying for today? What preparation are you asking God to do in you in anticipation of revealed vision? We will only find a moderate level of success when we operate on our strength alone. Preparing the way spiritually as we seek God's wisdom will allow God to work in us before He works through us.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Say Something

The fear of doing the wrong thing can be powerfully paralyzing. We can become afraid of saying something destructive to our kids so instead we don't speak a word. We are so worried about upsetting our spouse that we don't address issues that are necessary. We see wrongs in our community but become overwhelmed with maintaining political correctness instead of stepping up with solutions. In each of these areas we have falsely convinced ourselves that silence is better than making a mistake.

Things don't naturally get better without some investment and energy. It's time to cast aside our reservations and step forward (even if a bit anxiously & cautiously) into action. Becoming people of thoughtful action spurs us towards change.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Stepping Up

What do you do when you see a need? Are you willing to step into action even if it completely changes your life? What would happen if men stepped up to lead in sacrificial ways that changed the destiny of another person? You might be the radical solution to another person's problem and see your life and theirs changed forever.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Conveniently Disobedient

Our lead pastor shared a hard thought today in his message when he said, "Choosing convenience over obedience always leads to destruction." This is a tough morsel to chew on, but is completely accurate. This can obviously apply to many areas in our life, but it spurred me to think about the way that we worship God. 

Are we choosing convenience over obedience in our worship? Are we doing what is easy for us or what is right? What do we need to obediently surrender so that we can worship in spirit and in truth? 
  • Time 
  • Pride
  • Money
  • Talents
  • Words
  • Attitude
  • Ego
  • Calendar
God repeatedly tells us that there is no true worship without sacrifice. If we are searching for authentic, engaging worship we need to look first to our level of obedience and choose to take action. Waiting for a convenient time isn't a very effective method of obedience. 

Saturday, October 25, 2014

It's a Risk

Most of us fear rejection. We don't like to take a risk and then be summarily dismissed. It can be an intimidating prospect to be rejected for a job, a date, or an opportunity. It's much more painful if we feel that action is directed specifically at our identity.

John Powell wrote in his book, Why I Am Afraid To Tell You Who I Am?, "I am afraid to tell you who I am, because, if I tell you who I am, you may not like who I am, and it's all that I have." We avoid personal honesty & transparency because that puts us at tremendous risk of injury if it isn't received well. While we might feel that constructing a facade to hide our true selves behind will keep us safe, it will also ensure the lack of real relationship & community. We won't ever be able to enjoy depth in our most personal relationships and will become increasingly isolated.

I'm not suggesting that we need to rent a billboard to advertise our true selves or spew all of it out via social media. Instead we make an intentional effort with a select few people to share who we really are. It's a risky endeavor, but one that brings depth in its rewards.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Warning Signs

Warning signs exist to help us recognize and deal with potential problems. It's why our cars are now designed to turn on the "check engine" light when something needs to be adjusted or how there is a sensor that lets us know our tire pressure is low. Our bodies give us warning signs as well: blood pressure increases, heart rhythm irregularities, and referred pain that indicate physical issues. These are all intended to help us see that there is a potentially larger problem that needs our attention.

While we may have become more adept at recognizing the warning signs in some areas, I don't know that we see it in those that matter most. Do we recognize impending danger in our emotional, mental, and spiritual health? Do we pick up on the signals of potential harm and deal with them before they escalate? To address these properly we need to know what our personal warning signs are and be disciplined in addressing them.

If we don't possess the maturity to recognize and correct these indicators, we are headed for a more serious problem than if we deal with it at the first sign of danger.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Step It Up

No matter what you've gone through, you can still do a lot with what you have. 
Veronika Scott

Regardless of your past, you can still make a significant difference in this world. Are we able to take our experiences and let them motivate us to do something substantial? Are we willing to carve out a legacy of positive impact? Let's see what happens if we commit our lives to adding value in innovative ways.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Manly Focus

The mouth of the righteous man utters wisdom and his tongue speaks what is just. 
The law of God is in his heart; his feet do not slip. Psalm 37:30-31

These verses describe the man that I want to become. It speaks well of the character of a godly man that is intent on following God's design for his life. It reminds me to use my words in the best way possible without inflicting harm while dealing with difficult situations when needed. These verses remind me that unless I am firmly rooted in God's truth, I am liable to fall from grace and damage people around me. I am only able to stand securely when I do so through the strength of God's great word and His faithful promises to me.

I have committed these verses to memory so that I can constantly review them throughout the day and gauge my focus and progress. If I am unwilling to reevaluate my growth, then it's obvious that I'm not truly interested in transformation. I dream of a community where the men would commit themselves to the power contained in these two verses. Imagine the incredible difference we could make if these became our driving force for leading in our families, the church, and in our community.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Tell It

Money & time are two commodities that are usually in short supply. The truth is that both of them will be entirely used up. If we want to be more efficient and effective, we need to learn to tell our money & time how they will be used. If we don't schedule and budget we will still find ourselves with money and time gone, but without any idea of where they went. 

We will control both commodities better when we have a plan and stick to the plan.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Clean House

People's perceptions of what it means to clean house are not identical. Some people would be content with simply cleaning the surface without removing deep layers of grime. Others would feel things were clean if clutter was removed from sight even if it was shoved into a drawer. Then there are those who will devote hours of scrubbing, sorting, and disinfecting and still won't be satisfied with the results. It's our definitions of "clean" that vary and can cause conflict and confusion.

Submitting ourselves to God and asking Him to cleanse us doesn't involve a negotiable definition. We don't get to ask God to extricate us from messy situations, but leave us alone in the sinful habits we are comfortable holding on to. We cannot reserve the right to ask God to pull back on His personality and purification process. We either fully submit to Him or we don't submit at all. If all of God does all that God does, we can't surrender any less. This means that we have to be willing to surrender our mental focus, habits, words, relationships, attitude, aspirations, and behaviors.

If we're going to clean house for God we've got to deep clean the whole house by His standards and not our own.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Downhill Run

I was part of mission teams to the Traverse City area of Michigan for several years as we helped lead a week of camp up north. The last few crews that I led up there were able to travel a day early and spend some time sight-seeing at Sleeping Bear Dunes. It's a phenomenal park that has a 450 foot sand dune leading down the shore of Lake Michigan. While we never went down the dune we did enjoy watching other people run down to the shore. The descent can be accomplished in a matter of minutes, but the return to the top can take an hour or more. It's obviously much easier to run down the sand hill than it is to trudge upwards.

It's the same with some of the decisions that we make in our lives. We choose to run after things that may not always be wise for us (relationships, addictions, possessions, short-term gratification) without considering how difficult it will be to recover from our choices. The descent into our decisions doesn't always take long, but returning to a place of health will certainly be a lengthier process. This doesn't discount the immediate grace that God extends to us. It is, however, a powerful reminder of the earthly consequences for poor decision making and the difficult task that awaits us as we seek to rebuild our character.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Good Beginning

The Kansas City Royals are in the World Series for the first time since 1985 and I couldn't be happier. It's refreshing to see someone new on the main stage and I'm hoping they are able to pull of the final four wins they need to be champions. It's been a long journey of struggling and rebuilding for them and while their success is the culmination of  dedication and talent, there have also been some decisions made that have helped them achieve their goals.

A couple of years ago the Royals traded away a great outfielder for a couple of pitchers (James Shields & Wade Davis). At the time, many people were unsure that this was the best move, but it is certain that they would not be winning today without taking this risk. Sports journalist Andy Martino wrote the following about the Royals management:

"The Royals did have a sharp view of exactly where their franchise was: Their timetable for contention, and their own talent. Now they are in the World Series, with Shields starting Game 1. Perhaps self-awareness is the new market inefficiency.

When you talked to Royals people in the winter of that trade (and now), you saw that they knew what they were..."

Visionary leaders are not only consumed with the potential of what might be possible, but are also keenly aware of current circumstances. Can we effectively assess ourselves, our families, and the other people we lead? Are we able to accurately measure the present even as we look to the future? A powerful dream is compelling and it requires an properly measured beginning to become a reality.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Thankful Thoughts

It's not Thanksgiving, but I found myself thinking about the things in my life that I am grateful for today. I started to post a brief comment about it via social media, but felt that my gratitude would be better expressed in blog form. It's not a comprehensive list, but hopefully it reflects a few of the things I am grateful for today.
  • A day off to replenish my energy reserves
  • A stack of books I am excited to read
  • The opportunity to preach this Sunday
  • Having the windows open while cool breezes blow through the house
  • Better physical health
  • Being madly in love with the woman who has my heart
  • Three maturing young daughters who also have my heart
  • Connecting with people over coffee
  • Confidence in knowing that I am a work in a progress that is heading in the right direction
  • Looking forward to a good dinner
  • Grace that redeems my past and offers a better future
  • Having my mind stimulated by new ways of thinking
  • The love of a faithful dog
  • Grace-have I mentioned how thankful I am for this?

Thursday, October 16, 2014

What Defines Me?

My calling is to be a pastor, but is that truly who I am? I am a husband, father, son, brother, and friend, but do those relationships define me entirely? I am here today as a sum of my past experiences (delightful, awful, and mundane) and my reactions to those experiences, but do those additive moments fully describe me? They are all part of my mental, emotional, and spiritual development regardless of how well or how poorly I have chosen to act in the past.

I am more than I appear to be. I know this because of my confidence in Christ which gives me hope beyond my current circumstances. Even armed with this knowledge I still struggle to find my place and my way in this life. How much more do those without that some confidence battle to discover their true identity? It can only be completely found in one place. Anything less is a poor substitute that leaves us confused and desperately searching for the real truth.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Too Idealistic?

I don't know many people who think that setting goals is a bad idea. Having something to aim at hopefully inspires us to become better people. The truth, however, is that we won't always reach what we are striving for. Sometimes we will fall short of our desired objective and will need to reevaluate our goals. 

When we discover that something is idealistic but not realistic, what do we do? 
  • Give up.
  • Change our ideals. 
  • Figure out a way to get closer to our ideal even if it's not 100% attainable. 
  • Diminish our values so that we can say it worked. 
  • Make adjustments while continuing to strive forward. 

The correct answer might seem obvious, but it really depends on our level of maturity, our willingness to persevere, and our committed passion to the goal. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Everything Changes

People can point to monumental events in history and identify many moments that have drastically changed the future. I personally believe that no moment in history changed things like Christ coming back to life after being crucified. I could probably enjoy some healthy dialogue about this with people who don't believe in Christ, but I doubt that I would get much argument from Christ followers.

Here's the big question for the Church if that is true:  If the resurrection of Christ has changed everything, why do we keep living like it has all remained the same?

  • Instead of being free in forgiveness, we live as prisoners of our past.
  • We refuse to change our thoughts & attitudes even if they are in opposition to God's commands.
  • We ignore the truth by believing lies just because they've been told to us for our entire lives.
  • Stubbornly, we refuse to take steps of faith and only do what makes us comfortable.
  • We seek contentment and value in everything except Christ.

Our belief in Christ's victory over death should translate into us being changed people. That doesn't mean we'll always get it right, but it should be our aim. We certainly can't remain complacent if we believe He's alive.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Open Dialogue

I am mostly an extrovert (which doesn't surprise those that know me) and enjoy spending time with people. Part of that is tied into my desire for open conversation and the exchange of ideas. I have not always effectively practiced this, but I strive to open myself up to new ways of thinking. I believe that the honest, respectful dialogue provides the opportunity for mutual respect and understanding. It allows us the chance to be in agreement on parts of issues while respecting our individual rights to stand on our differences at the same time. It's a practice that proves that people can honor each other while not being in 100% agreement with every part of their belief system.

Imagine the difference in our communities if we could convince people to sit calmly and find common ground without demeaning each other. This wouldn't just transform leaders, but would bring peace and understanding our neighborhoods. I believe it would reveal that we have more in common with people than we might think. Once we see this foundational truth we'll work harder to maintain the unity we are all clamoring to see.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Keep Swinging

"My motto was always to keep swinging… In a slump... 
the only thing to do was keep swinging."
Hank Aaron

When you don't know what to do, keep doing what is right. When things don't seem to be going your way, keep doing what is right. When your pace of life is uncertain, keep doing what is right. When we are struggling to maintain our focus, keep doing what is right. When we are completely at a loss in our relationships, we need to keep doing what is right. 

The measure of the character of a person is in their ability to consistently do what is right even in difficult circumstances. Our steadfast commitment will help us endure through trying times.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Word Power

As someone who writes daily and speaks in front of people weekly, I understand the power of words. I'm continually learning not to waste them and hopefully how to use them more effectively. I don't want to throw away any of the opportunities that I might have to speak positive truth. I also don't want to casually cast out words that prove to be harmful or misleading either. The privilege to communicate to people isn't one that I take lightly even if I don't always perfectly execute my intentions.

What if my communication isn't seen or heard by a large number of people? Does it matter as much then? What if I am the only one who reads what I write? Is it still powerful?

I believe that the power of words is not only determined by the size of the audience. What I speak and write also shapes my mind and spirit. That doesn't mean that I need to ignore the truth, but that I should recognize my ability to influence myself. I can't negate the incredible influence of my words even I'm the only one listening.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Define the Fight

My blog yesterday asked two questions: What are you fighting for? What are you fighting against? 
I think we often naturally drift into what we are opposing instead of recognizing what we should be actively pursuing. Perhaps we should identify what we are willing to fight for if we want to see it happen. 

How do we answer that question correctly? What are the things that we should be striving to make a reality?
  • Peace 
  • To speak for those who can't speak for themselves
  • Unity in our family, church, and community
  • Social justice
  • Protecting our children
  • Integrity & fidelity in our marriages
  • Maintaining our character
  • God's calling on our lives
There is a fine balance between fighting for and against things that will keep us focused on growth instead of only finding things to be angry about. I would rather be defined by what I am strongly in favor of instead of only what I stand against.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Time to Fight

We are engaged in a battle every day. There are some times when we might feel as if it is a battle simply for survival. Other times we are fighting to get ahead and improve our circumstances. Even if our daily motivation changes, the battle continues. How do we get prepared for what we will face? How do we anticipate what we will encounter and find success?

Our path is easier to choose when we can determine the answer to two questions:

What are you fighting against? 

What are you fighting for?

The answers to these two questions will set parameters for our daily focus and help us to stay engaged in battling the right things. If we allow ourselves to get distracted from these answers, we won't be successful when it matters most.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Making Me New

I continue to see great evidence of God's gift of restoration. I see it in brand new marriages from broken relationships, in people walking confidently in God's grace despite a sordid past, and in the power of a radically transformed character. It's all reflective of the way God makes brand-new, beautiful things out of the rejected, discarded refuse of our life choices. Who couldn't fall in love with a heavenly Father who desires to do that for those He loves?

Tuesday, October 7, 2014


The four letters "NSFW (not safe for work) indicate an online item isn't acceptable to view while on the job. Attaching those four letters to a link, picture, or video is intended to provide a warning. If you see it, you should either wait until you get home to view it or at least be very careful not to get caught. I guess the premise is that something may not be tolerated on the job, but is completely fine at home. 

The bigger question for me is whether it should matter where you view it or not. I'm not suggesting that the work place should become a place of extreme tolerance. I'm making the argument that if something isn't "appropriate" for work it shouldn't be acceptable anywhere. It's a reflection of our character and what we are willing to call right and wrong instead of our present location. If we feel the need to hide something we are looking at should it be allowed to enter our mind at all? If the material is so objectionable that it may cause disruption at our job shouldn't we avoid it entirely? 

NSFW shouldn't stop us from looking at something. Our desire to have a certain level of character should have already made that decision for us.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Growth Chart

I am excited by growth. There is something extremely appealing about success multiplying at such a level that it creates new challenges. Growth can come in many forms too. I love to see an organization thrive, a garden grow, muscles increase, a savings account double, confidence in God deepen, and people develop. These are all positive things, but the truth is that they don't always come easily. There has to be a significant outpouring of intentional energy and focus to make it happen. 

We can't just be attracted to growth, we have to be personally invested to make it a reality.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

I See You

Have you ever been so focused that you walked right by someone you knew without acknowledging them? It usually happens to me when I am grocery shopping. I am so zoned in on my list and getting out of the store as quickly as possible that I have been guilty of tunnel vision. Fortunately, most people are understanding once they have gotten my attention and don't hold it against me.

How often do we look past the people around us? Are we aware of the vast number of people we walk by in our community on a daily basis? Do we see them for who they are and understand that they each carry their own burdens? Are we paying attention to our fellow travelers and recognizing them as valued people? 

It's easy to become intently focused on surviving our own schedule and neglect the opportunities to interact with other people. Sometimes the best way to make an immediate impact is to see the person right in front of us.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Vulnerable Plea

Three of the most difficult words to say out loud are, "I need help." Genuinely speaking these to another person takes a healthy dose of humility and reveals the trust we have in the person we are asking. It's hard to admit this because it reveals the fact that we don't have it all figured out. It means that we are unsure of what to do next and that we are opening ourselves up to the generosity of others. The truth is that it makes us vulnerable and we open ourselves to possible ridicule and rejection.

None of those outcomes are attractive, but if we don't take the risk we'll never get what we're looking for either.

Friday, October 3, 2014

At Bat

I saw online this morning that my beloved NY Mets are changing hitting coaches once again. They
fired the first coach about halfway through this season and promoted the guy they let go yesterday. When you compare the team's batting results under both coaches they are very similar.

These parallel statistics could point to the ineffectiveness of both men to identify problems and communicate solutions. It could also be very revealing about the players they are attempting to improve. Perhaps the issue isn't with the coaching philosophy, but the talent and focus of the players they are working to help. If they continue to bring in hitting coaches and see the same results it might hint of a problem that isn't related to leadership or instruction.

At some point, a leader is doing the best they can with what they have. The results may not be at the level that is hoped for, but changing the leader may not elevate the level of performance either.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Talk Time

Whenever we are struggling through conflict, battling with problems, or feeling off-balance, we can end up being very unsure of our next step. Most of us need some time to process what we are thinking and what the right response should be. The problems intensify when we don't move past this stage and keep running things through only in our minds.

At some point we need to open our mouths and engage in helpful dialogue to move past these tough spots. This can be a conversation with a good friend over coffee, an open discussion with colleagues, or even a session with a qualified counselor. It's the next natural step to dealing with complicated situations. If we never reach this stage we end up increasing our own frustration and pushing a potential solution farther away.

At some point we've got to talk.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Back in the Day

Memories of our past can be a tricky thing. We tend to glamorize certain events and make them out to be bigger and better than they actually were. I'm not saying that there weren't fantastic times in high school, college, or early childhood. I have just seen how distance from them tends to make the "good old days" seem better than they actually were. Perhaps it's just that our memory protects us by neglecting the bad parts and only focusing on the good. 

Is that such a terrible thing? Is it acceptable to have the bad parts of something forgotten and only remember what was good "back then"? I think it's detrimental if our reminiscing causes us to be bitter over our present circumstances. Then we've taken something that is not entirely true and elevated it above the potential for present, positive living.