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The Brotherhood – Part 83

February 27, 2013 Leave a comment

The Brotherhood of the Second Cross was established on Father’s Day 2005 where 160 men stood before their wives and children to pledge themselves to purity, self-sacrifice, loyalty, and excellence. Today, hundreds more have joined the commitment.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up. After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin.                        Hebrews 12:1-4

We’re not alone, or are we? The fact is that our struggles against sin aren’t exactly suffered in isolation. Every one of us battles the temptation to sin. But how do you win?

If you are determined to live by God’s commands, you may feel alone. Truth is, many Christians don’t live biblically. Many allow issues in their lives to continue unchecked. Many are careless with their choices. Many are in bondage to things God has cleansed them of.

Why should we make such an effort? First, our choice to obey honors God. Jesus told us that obedience would be the demonstration of our love for Him. When we obey, we show God that His priorities are our priorities.

Second, we know that God has the best strategy for living. As the Maker of life, it makes perfect sense that God would know how life is to be lived and that He would have the path to the very best life figured out.

Third, God’s directives flow from His love for us. When God says “don’t” or gives us a command to pursue, He does so with a desire for good things. If you look at God’s commands, every one of them lead to better life. Things He calls sin are bad ideas too. If you violate their prohibitions, you end up with a lesser life, so following God’s direction really makes a lot of sense.

But how do u conquer areas of temptation that have become habits/addictions? First, you have to want to. And that’s enough of a first step for today. Next time we’ll move further in this journey as we seek to conquer what’s been conquering you.

Notes from the Journey – 20

February 26, 2013 Leave a comment

20. Jesus mother said to Him, “They have no more wine” (John 2:3).
How quickly do we turn to God in our search for help or answers? One wonders at the expectations of Mary, since there are no previously recorded miracles in Jesus’ life. What did she think He might do? Still, the things she has treasured in her heart surely were longing for expression, so her quest isn’t a complete surprise. Do we look to Christ for such simple things? Do we think the Divine nature will integrate with our common moments? Clearly Mary saw this moment as possessing the potential for revelation. Do we see our simple moments as similar opportunities?

Categories: Leadership Journeys

Leading the Smaller Congregation – Part 12

February 25, 2013 Leave a comment

We shouldn’t ever forget that the kingdom reward for the smaller church pastor isn’t less significant than for those who might lead hundreds or even thousands. Every smaller church pastor should remember the forgotten character in Matthew 25’s parable of the talents:

We often focus on the failure of the third servant to use the bag entrusted to him for his master’s benefit. Or we celebrate with the first servant and his amazing faithfulness with the large sum his master gave him. But the second servant is the friend of the smaller church pastor. While he could have been frustrated or angry that his portion was smaller than the first servant, instead he chose to be diligent and faithful. That effort brought a result that pleased his master. Not only did he receive the master’s praise, but he also received the same reward as the servant with the seemingly larger assignment. The size of his situation didn’t deter him, nor did it keep his master from valuing his work.

Before we close this extended series on Leading the Smaller Congregation, let me say, “Thank you for the work you’re doing.” Your diligence and your desire to grow both yourself and your church honor the God who has called you. Pastoring a smaller church isn’t a smaller calling, but clearly one that God has called thousands of us to engage. Be the leader God has called you to be and enjoy the life of loving people and making a lasting difference in their futures.

Notes from the Journey with the Disciples – 19

February 21, 2013 Leave a comment

19. You shall see heaven opened (John 1:51).
When Christ invites us to follow Him, He doesn’t promise ease or lavish comfort. He does promise the unique and powerful presence of God. As His followers, we are guided by a determined effort to see what others don’t see, to know with confidence what others are reluctant to believe. A journey of faith requires moments that are not grasped by reason or common wisdom. Such a journey is launched by and maintained by a confidence built on what we believe we have seen as we look to Him. Nathanael and the others will see great miracles, but ultimately they must see that heaven has been opened to them. Otherwise, they will lack the strength to pursue what is ahead.

Categories: Leadership Journeys

The Brotherhood – Part 82

February 20, 2013 Leave a comment

The Brotherhood of the Second Cross was established on Father’s Day 2005 where 160 men stood before their wives and children to pledge themselves to purity, self-sacrifice, loyalty, and excellence. Today, hundreds more have joined the commitment.

What gets in the way?

When we set out to be a certain kind of man, what keeps us from it? Many men are determined to be the kind of dad that never misses our child’s ball game or the kind of husband that makes the wife swoon, but somehow life slips away from us and we don’t end up being that guy. What stops us?

Insecurity.

Insecurities are a powerful force in a man’s life. From the common fear of failure to the various levels of rejection we try to avoid, insecurities often dominate a man’s inner landscape. We fear not being sufficient, good enough, and valued. We fear being exposed as a failure. We fear losing a job, facing a bill we can’t pay, or finding ourselves in a spot we can’t get out of. Insecurities come in all shapes and sizes and they are the most likely source of our inability to be the man we want to be.

So we stay late at the office trying to measure up to the boss’ demands, prioritizing work over the things we truly want to value. Insecurities control our choices more than we know. Every time we explain to our family that. “I have to…” we are usually explaining a decision driven by insecurities. Sure, there are times when the “have to” really is one, but likely our fears drive such choices more often than we realize–fears that may not be as real as we insist.

Insecurities also drive destructive behaviors. When those feelings become intense, we look for escapes in “liquid courage” or even pornography. The escape allows a man to feel that he is in charge of something, dominating someone, or just stronger than he truly is–for a few minutes. By definition, fantasies are an escape from reality. Usually it’s insecurities that make such an escape appealing.

So how do you deal with those feelings? Well, with God, everything starts with confession. Acknowledging our weakness opens the way for God to begin to help us. Confessing to a trusted friend can also help get the hidden fears out in the open so we can see them clearly.

Once we admit the problem, finding the right help comes next. Choose a path that takes you far from your chosen method of escape. Avoid the opportunities for escape and you’ll force yourself to find healthier ways to deal with your fears.

Learn to trust God’s sufficiency. You may not be able to meet a boss’ demands, but God will provide you with everything you need for life. If you trust Him, He will either show you that you’re efforts are better than you think or that there’s a different door He has for your life. Don’t trust your own view of things. I have a friend who wisely says, You wouldn’t worry so much about what people thought of you if you knew how seldom they did.” Likely your insecurities have painted you into a darker room that you really live in.

Always give your best, but make sure you give it to your best relationships first. Don’t let the things that matter most suffer at the hands of other things on your list. Give your best at home and you’ll find the ability to be even better at work. But giving your best at work usually means you don’t have any best left for quitting time.

Don’t let insecurities drive your choices or your behavior. You are God’s man and He has equipped you with everything you need for the life He wants you to live. So trust Him and give your best to becoming the man you always wanted to be.

Notes from the Journey with the Disciples – 18

February 19, 2013 Leave a comment

18. I saw you while you were still under the fig tree (John 1:48).
He sees you. Long before you encounter Him, Christ watches and knows who you are. The love of God preempts any personal connection. He gets there first and with that advantage brings love that doesn’t presuppose a future connection. Ours is still to choose to follow our “Philips” into His presence, but He loves and He loves first. And that must be a part of what it means to love like He did. We must love those we see, even before they see us. We may not have the capacity to see under every fig tree, but we must learn to love those we do see–in anticipation of the future opportunity to experience relationship.

Categories: Leadership Journeys

Leading the Smaller Congregation – Part 11

February 18, 2013 Leave a comment

Before we leave the subject of leading change, let’s talk for a bit about the pace of change. One mistake many pastors make is to misperceive those who resist change. Because the pastor feels passion for change and has worked through the necessity of pursuing a new direction, he can mislabel those who embrace change more slowly as resistors or even enemies of change. That may not be what is really happening.

For example, think about Moses leading the children of Israel across the wilderness. Now I’ve discovered that this wilderness trek didn’t really look like my childhood Sunday school papers pictured. A while back, a friend with a passion for mathematics told me that if 1.5 – 2 million people traveled together, marching ten abreast like the British army during the Revolutionary War, the line would stretch across 50-70 miles. Now, I’m guessing they weren’t quite that organized with all their possessions and animals, so imagine what the Exodus really looked like.

And if you could travel 12-15 miles each day, that means those near the back of the group might be 4-5 days behind Moses and those at the front of this journey. When I thought about that, I realized that the journey would feel VERY different, depending on where you were on the line.

You see, if you were up front with Moses…well, think about what that would be like. You could see Moses and hear his voice. You could see the cloud of fire that provided God’s guidance. You’d wake up every day, wondering if you’ll find the Promised Land just over the next hill of sand. Being up front would be exciting. My guess is that these people were easy for Moses to lead. They believed in the journey and when Moses called them to move forward, they were quick to respond.

It works the same for us. Those who embrace change quickly could be called Early Adopters. They are close to us as we move the church forward. These people tend to come from four groups: those who designed the change, those who have nothing to lose in the change, those who are accustomed to change, and those who thrive on change (usually younger people).

But not everyone will be an Early Adopter. In fact, only about 20% will respond to change like this. If the pastor expects everyone to respond to change with the enthusiasm of an Early Adopter, he will likely be disappointed.

Now imagine those who might be a day or two behind Moses or somewhere near the middle of the pack. What’s the journey like back there? Well, you overhear the enthusiasm of the group up front, but you probably don’t see Moses as much. You get most of your info second-hand. And when do you move forward? Only when those ahead of you have started moving, right? These people are called Mid-Adopters, and they are the largest group in the journey—usually around 60% of those we lead. They don’t respond immediately to change opportunities, but usually need to see the changes succeed before getting fully on board. Mid-Adopters do not despise change, but they can be wary of moving too quickly. They might also have more invested in the status quo or have seen previous changes that failed, making them more cautious. Frankly, most people dislike change that is made for them so a less than immediate response isn’t surprising. But if the pastor views these slower movers as resistors, he sets himself up for conflict.

Three or four days back we find Late Adopters. For Moses, these were likely the people who moved slower because it was harder for them to move. Maybe they were older, had more possessions, or seemed more attached to “where we’ve been.” For these friends, the call to “move out” isn’t exciting because it’s a lot more work for them to pull up the tent stakes and begin to move forward.

Late Adopters make up about 15% of the people and typically are more attached to the status quo than others. They are usually those who cannot see how they will benefit from the change and they won’t enthusiasically embrace the change until they feel they are being left behind. Late Adopters are often older members or those who have been in leadership for a long time. They have grown comfortable with the way things are and see change as a lot more work.

They move slower, but they will go forward if we treat them with patience and understanding. Sadly, in many change journeys, we see them as enemies of change and we “draw lines in the sand” that send them off on their own in the wilderness.

Yes, there will be some Non-Adopters—people who choose not to go with us. For Moses, there were people who wanted to go back to Egypt or choose another leader and another destination. Sadly, such a choice usually meant death in the desert.

When it comes to change, some people won’t go with us into the new direction. They will either slow their participation, pulling back from previous levels of involvement or they may leave the church altogether. A pastor should be prepared for the potential of loss when changes occur, but he can limit the size of this last group with patience, understanding, and a listening ear. If change is managed carefully, we can usually keep non-Adopters to about 5% of the people.

Now, keep in mind that Moses led a journey toward an amazing Promised Land, punctuated with remarkable miracles and a cloud that symbolized God’s daily presence and direction—and even he had people that wanted to return to the slavery of Egypt!

The point here is to avoid mislabeling those who don’t respond to the first opportunities to embrace change. Most ultimately will if they are treated with respect and understanding.