Links for Leaders 9/22/17

It’s the weekend…finally. The perfect time to grab a cup of coffee and catch up on some reading. Below, you’ll find some articles and podcasts I came across this week that I found helpful as a leader and parent and hope you do as well.

Before diving into those, in case you missed them this week. Here are the top 3 posts from my blog this week that I hope you find helpful:

Now, onto some more articles and podcasts to help you:

This post (Why Control Freaks Rarely Lead Large Organizations) from Carey Nieuwhof was the most convicting thing I’ve read as a leader in a long time. This hit me right where I am right now and nailed the struggle and tension that I feel as a leader.

If you’re a parent and a fan of podcasts, the last two Parent Cue podcasts have been great. The first is on how grandparents can help with parenting and being a great influence on kids. The second is on advice for the varying stages of fatherhood.

On a regular basis a guy will tell me about how his coworker “gets him.” Is more attractive than his spouse or some other reason why they should leave their spouse. Wrong. And Adam Weber has a great post on 5 reasons your coworker is cuter than your husband or wife.

If you’re a pastor or leader, you probably struggle with hiring. Hiring feels like pinning the tail on the donkey and seems to only workout half the time. Rich Birch, who has a fantastic podcast for leaders has some great axioms on hiring.

How to Know You’re a Christian

One of the struggles many people have is the question of assurance in their salvation. Maybe you grew up with a fear of your salvation. “Am I really saved? Because I did this or that, am I still saved?”

On the other end of the spectrum is a group that thinks they are right with God but aren’t. It might be because they try to be a good person, go to church, be generous or vote a certain way that makes them think they’re a Christian, but there isn’t anything different in their life or anything that shows any fruit.

Over and over in the New Testament, particularly from Jesus and John, we’re told that followers of Jesus will bear fruit, fruit that lasts.

But what is that fruit?

Paul tells us in Galatians that fruit is from the Spirit: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22 – 23)

Here’s a simple question: Do you see yourself growing in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control?

A follower of Jesus isn’t given an option. You don’t get to say, “I’m just not a joyful person like so-and-so.” Or, “I’m just not very gentle.” Or, “I have an angry personality and I’m not very patient.”

Here’s a simple clue on where you stand in your relationship with God: Do you desire to grow in these? Do you desire to see this fruit show up in your life? Does it grieve you when they don’t? Do you see growth not only in showing this fruit but also in your desire for it in your life?

There are some of those in Galatians that, because of your personality and gifts, are easy for you, and others that are a stretch. The ones that are a stretch are the ones God wants to grow you in.

Here’s my challenge to you: Which of these do you not have a desire for? Which of what Paul lists do you need to grow in? Ask God.

What you will find is that God will not give you patience in the way you would think of it, but the opportunity for showing patience.

Loving & Delighting in Your Marriage

Most married couples would say they love their spouse, even on the hardest days, but few marriages reach the level of delight.

Loving your spouse and delighting in your spouse are two different things, and the difference, I think, is the difference between a good and a great marriage.

We all love lots of people, but we don’t delight in all those people.

To delight in someone means “to take great pleasure in them, to adore them, to revel in, luxuriate in.”

You can love someone and not delight in them.

To delight in your spouse means to look for ways to build them up, to help them accomplish goals and dreams, to help them succeed.

To delight means more than just fighting for purity in your marriage. It means delighting in purity in your marriage and holding up your love and purity for your spouse so that everyone around you knows and feels it. Here’s what I mean. Have you ever seen a couple who has been married 10, 15, 20+ years who is still holding hands, snuggling in public or sharing kisses? Pursuing each other outside of the bedroom, in front of people? This is delight.

Have you seen a couple who speaks highly of each other? When you hear the wife talk about her husband, how proud she is of him, how much he provides for her, the leadership he takes. At times you wonder if she is making stuff up, and she might be. But delighting in your spouse means seeing the person they are becoming and helping them to get there.

When we love someone, even at our best, we can often love them for what they give to us or how they fulfill us. Delight is different. Delight is a focus on the other.

How to Love the Things of God

Growing up in the church, I always heard things like, “we don’t do that, that’s of the world.” Or, “we don’t love the things of the world, we love the things of God.” This sounds nice and good, but when I asked what specifically those things were I would hear things like Easter eggs, alcohol, dancing, gambling or Christmas trees. Interestingly, other things like TV or electricity weren’t things of the world (although they were for some people in my community as I grew up near many Amish communities).

There is a desire many people have to love God and love the things of God, but we often don’t know how.

How do we know if we’re loving the right things? How do we know if we love the world and the things of the world or the things of God? (see 1 John 2:15 – 17)

Two writers help us understand this.

Augustine said, “What really makes you what you are, is not so much what you say, believe or behave, but what you love.” And James K.A. Smith more recently said, “You are what you love.” Our loves define us, not what we say we believe, but our loves. Our loves get our time, attention, talent, and finances. You can say you love friends and community, but if you never make any time for them because of other commitments, do you really love friends and community? Many men say they love their families and yet make commitments that keep them from their families.

What I never heard growing up is that after John tells us not to love the world or the things of the world, he tells us what those things are.

Three things: desires of the flesh, desires of the eyes and pride in possessions.

First, The desires of the flesh. John is speaking of a few things here.

He is speaking at misdirecting our sexual desire outside of God’s design. This can be sex outside of marriage, porn, fantasizing about someone you aren’t married to, getting emotionally involved with someone you aren’t married to, wishing your spouse was different, looked different, or acted different.

This also applies to your personal feeling of your own body and the elevated desire you have to look a certain way or have a certain body type.

This also points to what we are willing to do for love; the distance we will go for someone to love us. Or, how we will manipulate someone by withholding love to get what we want.

Here’s another way to think about the desire of the flesh – a desire to always get your way, especially in relationships.

In marriage, you stop pursuing your spouse and pursue porn or someone else. When a man pulls away from his wife and looks at porn, he shouldn’t be surprised when she pulls away from him, even if she doesn’t know why. She knows he is pulling away from her.

You stop opening up to your spouse and slowly start pulling away from them to the point that you never talk or share your dreams, hurts and joys. If you’re married, you should know your spouse’s storytheir past, their hurts and joys. You should know their dreams and how to help them fulfill those dreams.

Second, The desires of the eyes. This is the desire of what can be seen. A certain life, a certain lifestyle.

In many ways, this is your ideal and dream Instagram account, whatever that is. It could be a certain kind of house, certain kind of family, certain kind of grill, workout equipment, cars, vacations, food, clothes, closet space, hiking, or boating.

Now, John isn’t saying that cars, shoes, grills, houses or vacations are evil. They are morally neutral. It is our desire towards those things. Why? Because that desire consumes us and takes over. We do whatever we can to have a certain life or appear to have a certain lifestyle. We all have this. This is a desire of having everything. So many of us have bought the lie that you can have it all.

Men believe they can climb the ladder, have the perfect family, friends, hobbies and God. And yet, something breaks on the way up the ladder.

Mom’s kill themselves for this lie. They believe it is possible to have it all and look like you have it all so that people behind your back say with jealousy, “she has it all.” That woman who “has it all” is often cracking and dying from the pressure and the sadness that she really doesn’t have it all, but no one knows.

This can be the workaholic, taking on too much. Never stopping to ask, do I want this life? Should I say yes to this assignment or promotion? If I say yes to this, what am I saying no to? There is always a trade off.

Kids sports teams, there’s always a trade off in your life. A friend recently lamented the loss of his evenings and life as he and his wife try to juggle three soccer teams for their three kids. He’s miserable, their kids are exhausted. But there is a life he is chasing, a life they either want to have or want people to think they have. It is a dangerous place.

This is the person who can’t slow down because they’re afraid. They are afraid that if they stop moving and doing stuff, what will they do? I had a woman tell me once that she couldn’t take a day off or rest because she was afraid of the thoughts that would flood her mind. She was running.

If you’re a parent, this could be the desire you have for your kids to behave a certain way, get certain grades, or get a scholarship. We kill ourselves for that, we push our kids to insane lengths for that. Why? We say it is for them, but deep down it is a desire to be seen a certain way. Why? Because the people they are and the people they become are a direct reflection of our parenting. We want people to know that aren’t flaky parents, we are incredible parents.

Third, Pride in possessions. Again, John isn’t telling us possessions are bad. He is telling us that loving them and having pride in them is bad. Being driven by them will destroy us.

This is the desire to appear important.

This is wanting to appear smart, successful.

This is why many are in debt, or workaholics.

This is why people take certain jobs and careers. Appeasing a parent or a spouse seems more important. They give up a dream, a God-given call for something safer.

Too many of us find pride in what we acquire, what we have or the drive to get those things and it becomes incredibly dangerous.

So what do we do?

Right before these verses, John reminds us that as followers of Jesus our sins are forgiven, we know the Father, we have overcome the evil one. He tells us twice we know the Father and we have overcome the evil one. This is crucial because it takes the wind out of the sails of loving the wrong things. John is saying, young mom with young kids, in Jesus, you are enough.

To the one trying to have it all, in Jesus, you have it all.

To the one who is dying for your mom, your dad, your spouse to say “I’m proud of you”, in Jesus, God is proud of you.

To the one who is trying to climb the ladder to accomplish some unforeseen goal that is always out there, in Jesus, you are complete. In Jesus, the work is done.

To the one that struggles to believe they can be free from that porn addiction, gossiping, loneliness, anxiety, in Jesus, your sins are forgiven. In Jesus, you have the power to overcome the evil one.

To the one who is worried about how your kids will reflect on you as a parent, in Jesus, your reflection is set.

To the one who wants to be known and stop being lonely and alone, in Jesus, you are known and you have your Father in heaven from the beginning.

To the one who feels lost and left out, in Jesus, you are found. You have been brought in and you know the Father.

7 Quotes on Change from Carey Nieuwhof

If you are leading change in your church, here are some great quotes from Carey Nieuwhof in his book Leading Change Without Losing It: Five Strategies That Can Revolutionize How You Lead Change When Facing Opposition:

The loudest people affected by a proposed change are those who are most opposed. The more opposed people are, the louder they tend to become.

When you focus on complaints, you lose sight of the plan.

Will you focus on the people you want to reach, or the people you want to keep?

There is no way I know to engineer significant change and keep everyone you’ve currently got.

Everyone in your church likes your church the way it is; otherwise, they wouldn’t be there. It’s just that the rest of your community may not. Otherwise, they might be there.

When you consider the 10 or 100 who might leave your church if you change, just pause to remember the almost 10,000 who aren’t coming because, so far, you have failed to change. Maybe as leaders we need to start fearing that.

Here are 5 questions designed to help you discern whether a person is indeed the kind of person you can build the future of the church on:
  1. Is their vision primarily based on the past or on the future?
  2. Do they have a spirit of humility? Are they open or closed to the counsel of other people?
  3. Who is following them, and is this the kind of group that you would want around your senior leadership table?
  4. Are they focused on themselves or the people you are trying to reach?
  5. Do they offer positive alternatives that will help build a better future than your current vision for change?

Links for Leaders 9/8/17

It’s the weekend…finally. The perfect time to grab a cup of coffee and catch up on some reading. Below, you’ll find some articles I came across this week that I found helpful as a leader and parent and hope you do as well.

Before diving into those, in case you missed them this week. Here are the top 3 posts from my blog that I hope you find helpful:

Now, onto some more articles to help you:

I meet a lot of people who wonder if they are leaders or wonder if they have what it takes to be a leader. Scott Cochrane breaks down how to know if you are talking like a leader. This is also helpful for leaders to evaluate how they speak to make sure they are moving people forward.

I love preaching. It is one of my favorite parts of my job. So I’m always on the lookout for insights on how to get better at it. Rookiepreacher.com has proven to be a great site for that. On it, they shared 8 principles of great preaching from Dave Stone who pastors a large church in Kentucky. These are pure gold for communicators.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading recently on church health and how a church pursues health and stays healthy. The older a church gets, the harder this seems to get and the harder you must fight for it. Brian Dodd (who always shares great nuggets) listed 11 practices of pastors whose churches have sustained health and growth.

As our church grows and the size of our staff, elder team and volunteer teams continue to grow, I find that I have less and less control over things. This is great for our church and the health of it, but it is also hard for me to handle because I tend to be a control freak. That’s why I love the perspective Ron Edmondson has, to look at the 5 things you control as a senior leader.

Why we Need Confession and How to Practice It

Jerry Bridges said, “Don’t believe everything you think. You cannot be trusted to tell yourself the truth.”

When it comes to our lives, few of us see ourselves accurately. We are often the last person to figure out what we’re good at, where we should spend our energies and talents, what dreams to pursue, when we’re making a poor decision or when we should act.

We think we’re good at figuring it out, but we rarely are.

That’s why perspective outside of ourselves, perspective from God and community, is so important.

Here’s why this is a problem.

We often make poor choices. We date the wrong person, take the wrong job. We find ourselves stuck in addictions that we wished we could let go of. We find ourselves spending our time with people and in places we wished we didn’t. In the end, this often leads to regret, shame, feeling forgotten, guilt and bitterness.

In 1 John, John is writing to his church that is struggling with sin and seeing themselves correctly.

There was a group in his church that, when it came to sin and struggles, thought they didn’t sin, they weren’t sinful (or as bad as our culture talks about it) and that there were no consequences to their sin. It didn’t do anything or harm anyone.

Now, no matter what you think of sin, you do things wrong. In fact, there’s a good chance that in the last hour you’ve done multiple things wrong. You may not call them sins. You might call them mistakes or failures or missed opportunities. But (and this is crucial) if we don’t see them correctly, we will miss God’s grace and forgiveness. And if we don’t see them correctly, we will end up with regret, shame, guilt and eventually bitterness.

This is why John points us to confession in one of the most popular verses in the Bible.

1 John 1:9 is a great reminder: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Confession is being honest with yourself and God about who you are and who He is.

It is seeing yourself through the lens God sees you, which is the only path to freedom.

This path takes us away from comparison, being the victim and even moping around. It takes us to freedom, because through confession we are able to let go. We are able to drop our bags of sin, guilt, shame and regret.

12 Quotes from “The Pastor: A Memoir”

Over the summer, one of the books I worked through was The Pastor: A Memoir by Eugene Peterson. I’m not normally a memoir fan, but this one grabbed me and I got so much out of it. It was like sitting across from him and gleaning so many nuggets of wisdom.

Here are some things that stood out to me:

The pervasive element in our two-thousand-year pastoral tradition is not someone who “get things done” but rather the person placed in the community to pay attention and call attention to “what is going on right now” between men and women, with one another and with God – this kingdom of God that is primarily local, relentlessly personal, and prayerful “without ceasing.”

Congregation is composed of people, who, upon entering a church, leave behind what people on the street name or call them. A church can never be reduced to a place where goods and services are exchanged. It must never be a place where a person is labeled. It can never be a place where gossip is perpetuated. Before anything else, it is a place where a person is named and greeted, whether implicitly or explicitly, in Jesus’ name. A place where dignity is conferred.

My “work” assignment was to pay more attention to what God does than what I do, and then to find, and guide others to find, the daily, weekly, yearly rhythms that would get this awareness into our bones.

Preaching is proclamation, God’s word revealed in Jesus, but only what it gets embedded in conversation, in a listening ear and responding tongue, does it become gospel.

We get serious about the Christian life, we eventually end up in a place and among people decidedly uncongenial to what we expected.

The Holy Spirit forms church to be a colony of heaven in the country of death.

Congregation is a company of people who are defined by their creation in the image of God, living souls, whether they know it or not. They are not problems to be fixed, but mysteries to be honored and revered.

My work is not to fix people. It is to lead people in the worship of God and to lead them in living a holy life.

The only way the Christian life is brought to maturity is through intimacy, renunciation, and personal deepening.

You are at your pastoral best when you are not noticed. To keep this vocation healthy requires constant self-negation, getting out of the way. A certain blessed anonymity is inherent in pastoral work. For pastors, being noticed easily develops into wanting to be noticed. Many years earlier a pastor friend told me that the pastoral ego ‘has the reek of disease about it, the relentless smell of the self.’

A clamoring ego needs to be purged from the pastor’s soul.

We had simplified our defining of Sabbath-keeping to three words: pray and play. On Sabbath we would do nothing that was necessary, obligatory, “useful.” We would set the day apart for the unfettered, the free, the unearned. Pray and play.

There were so many more, but you get the idea. Such a helpful book for me.

Completion.

Did you know that God’s goal for us is to be complete? (James 1:2 – 4; 1 John 1:4)

Complete.

1 John 1:4 says complete joy.

Everything in our lives is the pursuit of completion.

We want the end.

We move as quickly as possible.

We get angry when things take so long.

We describe relationships in terms of “they complete me.”

Interestingly, our goal is the same goal God has.

The difference?

We go about it differently than God.

What John tells us in 1 John 1 is that completion will come through the transformation of Jesus and in community.

James tells us in chapter 1 of his book that completion comes through trials.

For us, we try to find completion on our own, away from community and certainly not through trials.

Why?

Community and trials are difficult. They are painful.

The reality is, you can’t find completion and joy without community and trials. We must engage them.

Right now complete joy for you is on the other side of trials and community.

What will carry you through? The transformation and change found only in Jesus.

It is the redemption, grace and love of Jesus that will give us the courage and power to walk through trials and the difficulty of community. It is what gives us the power to face our stories and our hurts and not allow them to become bitterness and anger, but become beautiful.

I know it is not easy to face your story and hurt. There are things in your past you want to pretend didn’t happen. You are tired of facing your past. You are tired of feeling “this way or that.” Yet, as a mentor told me, “Our breakthrough is often right on the other side of the decision not to quit.”

Here’s what we’re chasing after: Joy.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, Joy is something very deep and profound, something that affects the whole and entire personality. In other words it comes to this; there is only one thing that can give true joy and that is contemplation of the Lord Jesus Christ. He satisfies my mind; He satisfies my emotions; He satisfies my every desire. He and His great salvation include the whole personality and nothing less, and in Him I am complete. Joy, in other words, is the response and the reaction of the soul to a knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.

How to Apply the Bible

When we read the Bible, we want to understand it and apply it. We want to know what the Bible says and how it affects our lives. We want something to happen, we want to get something out of it.

But we’re often left frustrated and wondering what we missed.

The following questions come from Matthew Harmon’s book Asking the Right Questions: A Practical Guide to Understanding and Applying the Bible. I’ll add a few ideas to each one.

Before we can apply the Bible, we must understand it. I can’t stress this enough, because too often we jump to applying it to our lives, and when we skip this first step, we will often miss what God has for us and what the Bible actually says. For some ideas on how to understand the bible, see this post.

Hebrews 4:12 says, For the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Here are 4 questions from Harmon on applying the Bible:

1. What does God want me to think/understand?

We do what we think and understand. We act based on our thoughts. If we think something, we go for it. God wants to shape and mold our thinking.

Remember, Hebrews 4 says that the Bible shapes our thoughts and the intentions of our hearts.

2. What does God want me to believe?

Connected to our thinking, God wants to change our beliefs.

We believe many things about ourselves that are not true. We believe we aren’t good enough, not lovable. We also believe we are too good.

3. What does God want me to desire?

We never sin without following a desire.

That desire could be for love or adventure. In this step we need to evaluate our desires. Are our longings, hopes, dreams and desires from God? Sometimes they are.

A desire for leadership can be a good, godly desire; it can also be a prideful desire.

A good question when it comes to desire is, “Will this further God’s kingdom or mine? Is what I’m desiring a need or a want?”

4. What does God want me to do?

Notice, this is last. Too often this is where we start, and when we do we miss what is actually happening in the Bible.

God wants us to do something based off what we read, what we understand about Him, about ourselves and our world. He is calling us to something. The Bible creates movement in us because the Holy Spirit is moving and active. Remember Hebrews 4.