Some Helpful Filters for Christians Responding to the SOCTUS Decision on Same-Sex Marriage

On Friday, June 26th 2015, the US Supreme Court ruled that states cannot keep same-sex couples from marrying and that same-sex marriages must be recognized by every state.  This decision led to immediate reaction from Christians and from almost everyone with an IP address within the United States (or at least that's the way it seemed on social media).

The purpose of this post is not to state a position on same-sex marriage or on same-sex relationships, that has already been made for the church I pastor by our denominational leaders.

The purpose of this post is to give some helpful filters for Christians who are responding to the action of the SCOTUS.

Filters are important.

I was recently changing the filter on our Air Conditioner at our house when our youngest daughter asked me, "Dad, why do we need an air conditioner filter anyway?"

I went on to explain to her that without air filters the air we breathe gets contaminated and we're more likely to get sick.

The same thing is true with our words as Christians.  We need good filters for the words we speak, especially when we speak on topics like this.

So here are three filters that I suggest might be helpful to Christians who are responding to the recent ruling of the SCOTUS as we seek to better understand the way forward.

1. Any response that does not begin with Jesus is not a Christian response.

Beginning with Jesus is essential because the church is the body of Christ at work in the world today.
This means that the church is to incarnate Christ to the world in which we live in the same tangible ways that Jesus did when he physically walked on earth 2,000 years ago.
If the response of the church looks more like a group of people who are fearful of losing their rights or privileges than it does Jesus who laid aside his rights and privileges, then we’re missing the mark when it comes to living as Christ in this world.
Paul put it well in Philippians 2 where he wrote, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus, who being in very nature God did not consider equality with God something to be used for his own advantage, rather he made himself nothing by taking on the very nature of a servant, by being made in human likeness. And being found in likeness as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.”
Jesus did not fight for right and privilege, He set aside his rights and privileges in order to bring salvation to those who were separated from God.
Jesus primary goal was to seek and save the lost, not to be right.
The way that Jesus demonstrated the right-ness (righteousness) of His life was not through debate, but by the way He lived and especially by the way He died.
As Christians we’re pretty okay with the “by the way we live" part, but not as okay with the “by the way we die" part.
2. Any response that is based in fear and worry is not a Christian response.
I’ve been slow to post a blog on this topic because I wanted to follow the instruction of James 1:19 by taking time to listen to what others were saying about the SCOTUS decision, and most importantly what God would have me to say.
I wanted to listen to the tone and tenor of the responses, and filter those through the scriptures.  What I hear is a lot of fear and a lot of worry.
Fear that pastors will be forced into performing weddings that would be against their religious beliefs.
Worry that churches will be sued for not marrying same sex couples.
I’d remind us that fear and worry are two things that Jesus regularly addressed with his disciples.
When Jesus' disciples worried about being persecuted in Matthew 10 Jesus quickly said to them the words, “Do not be afraid…”
When Jesus taught his most famous sermon, He spent nearly 1/5th of the message addressing the issue of fear and worry.
Today, I think Jesus would remind us that fear and worry are not the values of the Kingdom of God.
Any response that is based in fear and worry is not a Christian response.
3. Any response that suggests the SCOTUS decision will limit the impact of the church is not a Christian response.
There is no earthly power that can limit the impact of the Kingdom of God or stop it from advancing in our world today.
The United States is not the first nation to legalize same-sex marriage, nor will it be the last.
The church may look different in the future than it does today, but that has been the case throughout history.
Through every generation, the church has continued to advance and it will continue to advance.
Jesus made it very clear in Matthew 16:18 that He would build His church and nothing could prevent that from happening.
Not Roman persecution of Christians.
Not the darkness of the Middle Ages.
Not the abuses of those in positions of religious power.
Not hypocritical and unloving Christians.
And not the Supreme Court of the United States.
Nothing.
So how do we live?
We live as Jesus lived, love as Jesus loved, and die as Jesus died.
We live as the holy people of God in an unholy world. (see Matthew 5-7)
We live the values of the Kingdom of God daily. (see Matthew 5-7)
We judge ourselves first. (see Matthew 5-7)
We listen quickly. (see James 1:19)
And we speak slowly. (see James 1:19)

Sermon Planning Tool - Listening to the Text

This morning I had the opportunity to share with Jay Akkerman's Preaching class at NNU about my sermon planning and writing process.  I shared a bit about how to I put together my 6-12 month preaching calendar as well as my weekly process for sermon writing.  I promised to post the outline of my writing schedule as well as a link to the Sermon Planning Tool that I use for listening to the text...so here you go. Weekly Sermon Prep Process

(note that I come in to each week already knowing the text and topic I'll be preaching on as I typically plan out several months in advance)

Monday: Listening to the Text

I block out a couple of hours on Monday afternoons for working through the attached Sermon Planning Worksheet.  This helps me to immerse myself in the text and to have the material needed to evoke it rather than to simply explain it.

Wednesday: Sermon Writing

I block out all day on Wednesday for sermon writing.  I take the raw material from my study on Monday and begin to draft an outline of how the sermon might be structured.  I then begin writing the sermon proper and illustrating it.  It usually takes me 6-10 hours of work on a Wednesday to get to a completed first draft.

Thursday: Sermon Editing

This is what I call the "Killing Your Lovelies" phase.  I work through the message by preaching it and eliminate content that doesn't support the main point of the message.

Saturday: Sermon Run-through 

I preach through my sermon either at home or in my office from 2pm - 5pm on Saturday multiple times in preparation for communicating it in the weekend services.

Here's the link to the tool I use to do my Monday sermon prep and study work: Sermon Planner tool

Resolution Bible Reading Plan (January - Ash Wednesday)

Part of our journey as Christ-followers who connect with God, grow in becoming like Christ, and serve others in the power of the Spirit includes celebrating our relationship with God by regularly spending time reading the Bible, meditating on it, and applying it to our lives. To assist you, one of the tools The Naz provides is the Bible Reading Plan. Seven days a week a passage of scripture has been selected that will allow you to read the Bible in managable sections. This new year we'll be reading through the book of Matthew from January until Ash Wednesday.  As you read, reflect on what you have read and be sure to journal your thoughts. A suggested method to use is the SOAP method:

S – Scripture: Write down anything that sticks out to you. O – Observation: Look at what you wrote. What things did you notice? Think through the who, what, where, and when of this passage. What does this passage mean? Think about the context of the passage, what would this have meant for those hearing it then? If you have questions, dig deeper into the passage by looking at a commentary. A – Application: What can you draw from this passage? How does this apply to your life? What encourages or challenges you? What one action step do you need to take today as a result of what you learned? P – Prayer: Ask God to help you respond to what He showed you in this passage.

Here's our 2015 Resolution Bible Reading Plan:

Jan. 1 / Matt. 1 Jan. 2 / Matt. 2 Jan. 3 / Matt. 3:1-17 Jan. 4 / Matt. 4:1-25 Jan. 5 / Matt 5:1-26 Jan. 6 / Matt. 5:27-48 Jan. 7 / Matt. 6:1-18 Jan. 8 / Matt. 6:19-34 Jan. 9 / Matt. 7:1-29 Jan. 10 / Matt. 8:1-17 Jan. 11 / Matt. 8:18-34 Jan. 12 / Matt 9:1-17 Jan. 13 / Matt. 9:18-38 Jan. 14 / Matt. 10:1-23 Jan. 15 / Matt. 10:24-42 Jan. 16 / Matt. 11:1-30 Jan. 17 / Matt. 12:1-21 Jan. 18 / Matt. 12:22-50 Jan. 19 / Matt. 13:1-23 Jan. 20 / Matt. 13:24-58 Jan. 21 / Matt. 14:1-21 Jan. 22 / Matt. 14:22-36 Jan. 23 / Matt. 15:1-20 Jan. 24 / Matt. 15:21-39 Jan. 25 / Matt. 16:1-28 Jan. 26 / Matt. 17:1-27 Jan. 27 / Matt. 18:1-14 Jan. 28 / Matt. 18:15-35 Jan. 29 / Matt. 19:1-30 Jan. 30 / Matt. 20:1-16 Jan. 31 / Matt. 20:17-34 Feb. 1 / Matt. 21:1-27 Feb. 2 / Matt. 21:28-46 Feb. 3 / Matt. 22:1-22 Feb. 4 / Matt. 22:23-46 Feb. 5 / Matt. 23:1-39 Feb. 6 / Matt. 24:1-35 Feb. 7 / Matt. 24:36-50 Feb. 8 / Matt. 25:1-13 Feb. 9 / Matt. 25:14-30 Feb. 10 / Matt. 25:31-46 Feb. 11 / Matt. 26:1-30 Feb. 12 / Matt. 26:31-56 Feb. 13 / Matt. 26:57-27:10 Feb. 14 / Matt. 27:11-31 Feb. 15 / Matt. 27:32-56 Feb. 16 / Matt. 27:57-66 Feb. 17 / Matt. 28:1-20

7 Ways to Test an Impression from God

We closed out our series "The Lost Art of Hearing from God" today at The Naz and like with most series, I had more sermon than I had service.  Rather than file these points away I thought I'd share them here. Whenever I talk with someone who is trying to determine if they're hearing from God or if it's something that's from themselves, I encourage them to ask the following questions:

  1. DOES IT AGREE WITH SCRIPTURE?

 Every word of God proves true. Proverbs 30:5 (NLT)

God will never lead you to do something that contradicts what He has already communicated in the Bible. 

  1. WHAT DO WISE PEOPLE WITH A HISTORY OF HEARING GOD SAY?

The godly give good advice to their friends; the wicked lead them astray. Proverbs 12:26 (NLT)

I often tell students that your friends will ultimately determine the direction and the destiny of your life.  Listen to people with a history of having heard from God.  Ask people who know God to help you sense if what you're hearing is actually from God.

  1. WHAT DOES EXPERIENCE SAY?

 As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his foolishness. Proverbs 26:11 (NLT)

 I'm convinced that the difference between a wise and a foolish person is how well they learn from past experience, their own and those of others.

Here are couple of my favorite quotes about learning from experience:

“In the light of scripture, in the light of my experience & others, in the light of my future hopes and dreams, what is the wise thing to do?” - Andy Stanley 

“The best teacher isn’t experience, the best teacher is the experience of others.” - Anonymous 

  1. WHAT DOES THE HOLY SPIRIT SAY?

But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. John 16:13 (NIV)

Jesus promised to give the Holy Spirit to his disciples.  This is the same Holy Spirit that was alive inside of Christ, leading him, guiding him, and empowering him to do God's will.  You can sense the leadership of the Holy Spirit in your own life.  Just remember that the Holy Spirit will always lead you in keeping with God's will that has been revealed through the Bible. 

  1. WHAT DOES MY CONSCIENCE SAY?

David crept up unnoticed and cut off a corner of Saul’s robe. Afterward, David was conscience-stricken for having cut off a corner of his robe. 1 Samuel 24:4-5 (NIV)

Like David, our conscience can keep us from making bad decisions.  Your conscience has been given to you by God to make you aware of places where you may be stepping outside of God's best for your life.

  1. DO I SENSE PEACE ABOUT THIS?

“For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.”1 Corinthians 14:33 (ESV)

A great sign of peace is the ability to have a calm mind, a quiet spirit, and a good night's sleep when it comes to the decision you're trying to make.  When I find myself loosing sleep, constantly replaying the decision in my mind, and uneasy in my spirit; it's a pretty strong indication I need to reconsider my direction. 

  1. DOES IT MAKE ME LIKE JESUS?

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.”Philippians 2:5 (NLT)

Jesus came not just to be a sacrifice for our sins, but also an example for us to follow.  God will always lead you in ways that are consistent with the life of Jesus.  If what you sense God leading you to do does not make you more like Jesus it's safe to say you'd be wise to rethink the decision.

 

Willow Creek Leadership Summit - A Grander Vision - with Don Flow, Wilfredo De Jesus, and Allen Catherine Kagina

Integrating faith and vocational calling. DON FLOW

Question 1. How does your faith affect every aspect of your business?

- Work is a place that God has called me to.

Four ways my faith affects every aspect of my business

1. Prayer Life - Beginning my day with prayer

2. Daily Interactions - Living love at work, loving not just exercising authority - There is a direct correlation between my prayer life and my ability to do this - I am called to lead with grace & truth - The company will never be more graceful or truthful than I am as the leader

3. Culture of Company  - The culture of a company shapes the lives of everyone in it - I must ensure that the underlying ethos of our company flow from Jesus admonition to demonstrate neighborly love - Commitment to the flourishing of all those it serves

4. Customer Engagement

Three commitments we make: Covenant with our Customers (tell the truth, do the right thing, keep our promises, limit our profit on transactions) Community with One Another (inclusivity, members of a body, everyone’s contribution maters, flex-schedules, fitness, college help, Common Good of Our Communities (investing in justice, beauty, community projects, service projects)

2. How much of the cure of the fall can be reversed?

We must re-imagine the future.

The description of the first creation is one of abundance.

We were given a calling to cultivate, organize, and nurture the creation.

The renewal of the world was begun in Christ, and we get to participate in it.

It’s the role of the church to help us raise our visions back.

The great reclamation project of God has begun in Christ.

We seek the creation of good, justice, and plenty in every place God has placed us in the world; in the spirit and way of Christ.

3. You evaluate employees on the metric S.E.R.V.E explain?

Leadership flows out of who we are, not just what we do.

Show Respect - A given right, not an earned privilege

Earn Trust - Clear in expectations - Consistant in actions - Speaking truth - Not being self-seeking

Reach for Perfection - Cast a vision of how things are meant to be - Not being satisfied with how things are - Continually challenge what the future can look like - Challenge without Confidence creates fear - Confidence without Challenge creates complacency - There is always another summit to climb

Value Input - Seek different perspectives - Have open conversations

Energize Others - Purpose, significance, and community - Clear purpose - Help people understand their contribution - Deep sense of belonging within the organization

The world will not form distinctive Christians, it’s the calling of the church to do this.

Imagine every church sending it’s members out into the community in the power of the Holy Spirit to exercise faith, live love, and bring hope; in the way of Christ in a specific place beginning right where you are today, with specific people beginning with the people right around you today, and for a specific purpose beginning with the purpose in front of you today.

ALLEN CATHERINE KAGINA

Uganda Revenue Authority

1. 2013 Africa was the world’s fastest growing continent at 5.3% annually. 2. World Bank expects most African countries will reach middle income status by 2025 at current growth rates ($1,000 annually per individual) 3. Poverty in Africa has declined 58% were living on less than $1.2 per day…by 2010 the poverty rate had declined by 10% 4. March of last year Africa was identified as the world’s poorest continent.

My story is the story of how God came into the URA and transformed one of the most corrupt organizations in the world.

I had been there for 13 years, and the question was how could I as a Christian bring any kind of change?

2004 the job I now hold became vacant, and I was naive enough to believe that God could change anything.

Several of my friends had been praying that God could use us to change this organization.

I have not training in business, my background is in psychology.

God does not know the division between the church and politics.

I am a proudly anointed tax collector.

Two things: we had to operate with integrity and we had to

We created a new organizational structure, terminated all 2,000 people and gave everyone a chance to re-apply for their jobs.

We put 500 people on the street, and become a much cleaner and organized organization.

Things like this had to be done to deal with corruption.

We asked the tax-payers, “What kind of a service do you want from us?”

We said, “We want to serve you.  Up until now we’ve told you what to do, but we want to know how to serve you.”

They didn’t want to stand in long lines to pay taxes.

We built an online system for tax payment.

We began to fund tax education.

We front loaded service and put auditing and enforcement on the back-end.

We discovered that people didn’t want to pay because they didn’t like us, so what we did was to rebrand the old old image and began to engage the community in community service and work.

It began to build trust, it has taken 10 years, but God has invaded the Tax Authority.

We’ve seen revenue growth of 310% in the last 10 years.

We used to contribute 54% to the budget, this past year it was 72%.

I’m convinced we are not a poor nation, it’s just that we have capacity issues.

What God has done in the URA God can do elsewhere.

This is not about me.  It was always God’s idea.  He wanted medicine in the hospitals.  He wanted communities developed.  He wanted children in schools.

If we will invite the kingdom of God to where we are in the public areas, in businesses, and in churches that God will take over and we’ll begin to see better societies.

WILFREDO DE JESUS

2002 I was approached by the Police Commander about the problem of prostitution in our community (Humble Park).

Anything you can do?

Yes, we can pray for you.

Prayer is good, but we cannot allow prayer to be a crutch for doing nothing.

Jesus is looking for leaders who will stand in the gap and engage their community.

You have to see the entire community as your church.

Jesus sat with the lost. Ate with the lost.  Conversed with the lost.

Jesus went towards the Samaritan woman, Levi, and the demon possessed.

For me what is sacred is the MESSAGE not the METHOD.

I’ll throw all sorts of lines and all sorts of bait to draw people into relationship with Jesus.

Nehemiah asked the question that changed the trajectory of his life…”How’s Jerusalem?”

Pastor, if you not going to do something, don’t ask the question.

With revelation comes responsibility.

Four things Nehemiah did…

1. He Prayed, Fasted, and Wept for the People of the City 2. He Planned 3. He Proceeded 4. He Persuaded

The moment you decide to stand in the gap, there will always be opposition.

Nehemiah wasn’t a prophet, a priest, or a king…he was a lay person.

The question Nehemiah asked is one we should ask, “How is __________________?”

Regardless of where you live, there are gaps everywhere.

Courage breeds creativity.

There comes a time when we must take a position that is neither safe, nor political, but one that is necessary because it is right.

Willow Creek Leadership Summit - Erica Ariel Fox - Winning from Within

Most of the literature on negotiation is about negotiating with other people. But what about how we negotiate with OURSELVES?

What does it mean as a great leader that one of my key roles is negotiating with myself?

There is a gap, the PERFORMANCE GAP, between your full potential, and what you do in real life.

Identify your key and consistent performance gaps and work a plan to close them.

I think of ME as being SINGULAR, but another way is to say, “I am PLURAL”.

- Walt Wittman said, “I am large, I contain multitudes.”

- “I am a man of a thousand faces.”

- "Each one of you is more like an orchestra than a soloist.” - quote from a brain researcher after studying the human brain

What I’ve found is that each of these parts of us have their own voices and are like negotiating parties.

The Big Four Voices/Faces 1. The Dreamer (Inner CEO) 2. The Thinker (Inner CFO) 3. The Lover (Inner HR Director) 4. The Warrior (Inner COO)

Are there one or two of these parts of me that I use really well, but one or two that I generally leave behind?

1. The Dreamer  - Creates possibilities - Sets strategic vision - Selects the path - Looks for the dream beneath the dream

2. The Thinker - Clarifies perspectives - Analyzes data - Manages risks - Look for rational data that motivates the thinker

3. The Lover - Cares about people - Feels emotional - Manages relationships - Collaborates with others - Look for where, not using your inner lover - Call to mind someone and appreciate them

4. The Warrior - Catalyzes Performance - Takes action - Reaches goals - Speaks hard truth - Identify someone you’re withholding truth from and have the hard conversation

If an organization is missing one of these roles it is not operating at its optimal level of performance.

The same is true for you.

Willow Creek Leadership Summit - Joseph Grenny - Crucial Conversations

If there were one thing you could do that would improve the quality of your relationships, the unity of your team and the outcomes of your organization…this is it. Illust: Story of his encounter in 2009 with a young man who he’s mentored when he was 12 years old. - 10 years later he came looking for Joseph to find a way to turn his life around. - They created a plan and he began working on it. - Created a plan to get him a vehicle and better job. - October of that year our house was broken into…I didn’t immediately put 2+2 together. - November our house was broken into a second time…this time I had video of this young man breaking into our home. - December I saw him in our neighborhood and I said, “Hey Patrick, I just want to talk.” - We went to our house and sat down in my house to talk.

30 years ago, in beginning our research we asked the question,

“Are there critical moments of disproportionate influence in our leadership?

Moments where how someone behaves has an enormous effect on the outcomes?

These are EMOTIONALLY COMPLEX moments.

CRUCIAL CONVERSATIONS 1. Opposing Opinions 2. Strong Emotions 3. High Stakes

Think of a name of somebody about whom you’ve drawn a negative conclusion.

There is nothing wrong with the reality of having challenges with people.

What matters is how you communicate in the face of that challenge.

Big Idea #1 The Principle of the Crucial Conversation.

“What crucial conversation are we not holding or holding well?”

The best way to lower the number of crucial conversations is to live a meaningless life. (jk)

A conversation can go from CASUAL to CRUCIAL in 4 seconds.

The irony is that when it matters most, you and I tend to do our worst.

Action: Think of a crucial conversation, and share one example of how you’re behaving.

The principle is that there will always be crucial conversations, and our action is to CONFRONT them.

You only have two options where there are crucial conversations: 1. TALK it out. 2. ACT it out.

Examples of crucial conversations in faith communities…

- A staff member is TOO OLD to continue in position.

- Top givers use their giving to MANIPULATE DECISIONS.

- Leadership decided to CLOSE the daycare center and LAYOFF STAFF.

- A board member says, “I’m NOT GIVING at all."

At 3-4yrs old we begin to believe a myth… “We often believe that you often have to choose between telling the truth or keeping a friend.”

You can measure the health of a team by counting the number of un-discusables.

Your job as a leader is to measure, coach, and number the issues that impact the health of your organization.

Top Crucial Conversations within Churches 1. Performance problems with volunteers or staff. 2. Member who are struggling in sin or disconnecting from the church. 3. Concerns with pastors.

If these things can’t be talked about bad things happen.

Crucial conversations are either a PIT or a PATH. - A PIT that keeps us mired in a lack of progress. - A PATH that moves us forward towards goal achievement.

Those churches in the top quartile of addressing these concerns were: - 73% better in new member growth. - 58% better in spiritual growth. - 65% better in staff strength - 100% better in financial health - 55% better in effectiveness in ministry

Challenge: Focus on addressing and using crucial conversations as a path to mission achievement.

The vital behavior that enables most any positive organization outcome is CANDOR at moments of acute emotional and political risk. Seven Crucial Skills 1. Start with the Heart 2. Learn to Look 3. Make it Safe 4. Master My Story 5. State My Path 6. Explore Others’ Path 7. Move to Action

Ingredients of Safety

MUTUAL PURPOSE - Help them know that you care care about their goals as much as you do yours.

MUTUAL RESPECT - Create a condition of safety called “mutual respect”…”You know I care about you as a human being."

- 97% chance you’ll be heard if you do these two things.

Candor is never the problem.

People never become defensive about WHAT you’re saying.

People become defensive because of WHY they think you’re saying it.

THREE TYPES OF WITHDRAWAL - with Annual Life Plan Retreat tools

This past weekend I taught on three types of withdrawal that we can build into our lives in order to hear from God.  The first two are pretty obvious and are taught on regularly in the church, but the third is one that I've seldom heard taught. 1. Daily Withdrawal

This usually takes the form of starting your day with a dedicated time of solitude, prayer, scripture, and reflection.  For me it means getting up between 5am - 5:30am and spending the first 30-45 minutes of my day reading from scripture, sitting in silence, listening to worship music, and prayer.  My pattern looks something like this:

5 minutes of silence (I'm working on building this to longer times, but I'm seriously ADD)

5 minutes of listening to worship music

10 minutes of scripture reading and meditation (I follow a bible reading plan using the YouVersion app on my iPad)

5-10 minutes of reflection and journaling (I use the DayOne app on my iPad or MacBook)

10 minutes of prayer (both listening and talking with God)

2.  Weekly Withdrawal

Just like it sounds, this is taking time to withdraw from everyday activities and to focus on hearing from God for a time of worship every weekend.  I love what Psalm 73:16-17 in the Message paraphrase:

When I tried to figure it out, all I got was a splitting headache . . . 17 Until I entered the sanctuary of God. Then I saw the whole picture.

If you don't already worship with a local church weekly, give it a shot for the next three months and see if God doesn't begin speaking to you in new ways.

3. Annual Withdrawal

No listening activity has helped me to hear from God and follow God's direction for my life more than taking a 2 day Annual Life Action Planning Retreat.  Each year (usually between Christmas and New Year) I get away for 2 days to reflect on the past year, review my Life Plan, hear from God, and set goals for the next year.

The tool I use for this is based on Michael Hyatt's "Creating Your Personal Life Plan" e-book.

You can download the e-book here.

The basic schedule for my retreat is:

Day 1: Reflection & Review

Morning: Scripture, Silence, and Prayer (2 hours)

Mid-Morning: Hike (2 hours)

Lunch (1 hour)

Early-Afternoon: Review of Prior Year Highs/Lows & Goals (2 hours)

Mid-Afternoon: Prayer Walking (30 minutes)

Late-Afternoon: AS/IS Evaluation of Life Plan (2 hours)

Evening: With family

Day 2: Reflection & Planning

Morning: Scripture, Silence, and Prayer (2 hours)

Mid-Morning: Hike (2 hours)

Lunch: 1 hour

Early-Afternoon: Goal Setting for 2014 in each area of my Life Action Plan (2 hours)

Mid-Afternoon: Prayer Walking (30 minutes)

Late-Afternoon: Bucket List Review, Evaluation, and Goal Setting for 2014 (2 hours)

Evening: With family

Typically, I'll do this retreat as a part of a family vacation while we visit extended family in Michigan over the holiday break.

This process has revolutionized my self-leadership.  I'm a healthier person, better husband, father, and follower of Christ because of this process.

I hope you'll consider giving it a shot for yourself.

 

Willow Creek Leadership Summit - Patrick Lencioni - The Most Dangerous Mistakes that Leaders Make

The Core Behaviors that Cause Problems for Leaders “When we do these things as leaders it actually hurts people”

THE THREE MOST DANGEROUS MISTAKES I’VE SEEN LEADERS MAKE

Intro: Working with a CEO who was stuck at a growth barrier. - Company began hemorrhaging revenue and customers. - High cost of facilities (because of people moving offices all the time) - Eliminated the office moves. - Two weeks later there was a construction crew who was moving a wall 2ft in order to make the CEO’s office fit the furniture he was shipping from the East Coast for his office. - This guy, made the first mistake that leaders make.

1. Becoming a Leader for the Wrong Reason - Notoriety, Fame, Power, Attention, Money. - Most leaders say they want to change the world, but what they really want is to be known as the leader who changed the world. - Why should they become a leader: Because they want to sacrifice themselves for the good of others, even when they don’t know there’s going to be any return on their investment and sacrifice. - When people lead out of a desire for fame, power, notoriety, money, and attention…they eventually get bored, hurt people, create cynicism and leave a trail of tears. - Nobody who wants to be a leader should be a leader. - When people become leaders because they’ve already calculated the ROI it’s just economics. - Some people say this sounds like servant leadership, I actually don’t think there’s any other kind. - If it’s not servant leadership, then it’s just economics.

Illust: Famous, brilliant, and intimidating leader - head of HR told him, hey no one is giving you honest feedback and they recommended 360 feedback. - he looked over it and shared it with no one. - he said he’d do it at his next staff meeting. - he shared with the team, and I was there. - it says here, “you’re not a very good listener.”  - What do you guys think? - we think you’re a good listener..we think you give good feedback…we think you’re awesome. - I scoot up and say, “you are the ones who filled this out, so someone here had to write this. one of you is lying.” - The leader from marketing said “it was me.” - The point: is the CEO was making the 2nd mistake…

2. Failing to Embrace Vulnerability - All he had to do was be vulnerable and say, “I’m aware of this and you can point it out to me in the future too.” - He sent a message to his team that I’m not vulnerable and you shouldn’t be either. - The people who work with us, know we are sweating before we tell them. - I don’t think you can be too vulnerable as a leader. - People have a right to expect competence, but we need to share weaknesses and failures. - If you’re not interested in trying to get better then you’re not qualified to be a leader. - More often than not it’s worth taking the risk of being vulnerable. - If you can be kind and humble and let them know there’s a better way more times than not it will help. - This means saying, “I don’t know the answer.  Please help me.  I need your help.” - People will walk through walls when you become vulnerable and open to input. - It’s tough to be somebody’s pastor and manager at the same time. - Sometimes you have to say, “you shouldn’t work here any more.” - Be completely vulnerable about the challenge…”I’m your pastor and I’m your boss.  This is the part of the job that is hard for me.” - Company spiraled out of control, there was no trust on the leadership team, and an entire state’s economy suffered because of this. - Because one man could not say, “I stink at something and I need help.”

3. Making Leadership too Important - We (leaders) probably struggle with this more than the average person. - There comes a point when leadership can become too important. - Most of the time we think about leadership at work. - It’s easy to lose yourself in leadership in a church. - This means our identity is wrapped up in being a leader. - Our identity as a child of God, a parent, a husband is greater than our identity as a leader. - We can work so hard leading that we can ignore our primary vocation and constituents (spouse, children, and God) - Ask them, “Do you think my job is more important than you?” - We don’t want to say at the end of our lives, “I hope my employees come around and tell me what a great manager I was.” - Why would you do that? (People at my office thank me more than my children do, and they think I’m smarter than my kids do so why not invest more there than at home...this is a trap we can fall into)

It’s all about PRIDE.

- The answer/antidote is HUMILITY.

Willow Creek Leadership Summit - Jeff Immelt - Positioning Your Organization for the Future

Bill Hybels interviewed GE CEO Jeff Immelt at the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit.  The following are some of the highlights from their conversation. Question: How do you decide who sits at the table representing GE?

- People say, “Show us the org chart.” - I can do that, but it doesn’t work that way. - We work as a team.  Our team doesn't always work on areas that are in their job description.  Anyone could be asked to lead any project at any time. Question: Did you have a plan to become a CEO? - I got lucky… - I had opportunity… - It was always about the work… - It was never about the career… - It was about creating things… - Your peers ultimately decide how far you go. - If you’re more of a giver than a taker you’ll increase your value.

Question: You were given a tough job of fixing GE's appliance devision in Kentucky…talk about that? - At 32 yrs old I had to lead the appliance service department that led through a major crisis. - Be around a crisis when you’re a young leader. - We learn about who you are as you lead through crisis.

Question: How long were you CEO before Sept 11th? And talk about leading in volatile times. - 4 days. - We live in a volatile time and it’s going to be like this for a long time. - We will not be able to go back to 1950 or the nation of our Founding Fathers. - The best leaders move things forward not back towards yesterday. - Keep your company secure, but keep it moving forward. - Don’t be foolish, but keep it moving forward. - There are opportunities out there, but you have to seize them.

Question: GE has Crotonville which is a leadership development university, what happens there & why is it so important to GE? - GE produces $160 billion in revenue annually through 8 Divisions. - You need some things that drive the unity and values of the company. - We invest $1 Billion per year in leadership development. (.70% of revenue) - Our leadership development training environments drive the oneness and unity of the company. - We teach organizational values and culture in this setting.

“You don’t want people come to work because they are afraid they can’t get another job.”

Question: When you see X quality in your team, what makes you say “I want to promote them.” or “I don’t want to work with them any longer.” - The willingness to stand apart and buck the system is something I look for in employees. - How’d I become CEO…I never took no for an answer and I refused to do what we'd always done. - I want employees who are willing to question the status quo. - This drives change and innovation. - Making excuses says, “I’m not going to learn.” - Making excuses makes me ready to say good bye to a team member.

Question: Hardest person you had to fire? - I can’t put my finger on it…there was just something that said, “he didn’t get it” - I sensed this person’s run was done. - Were they smart, integrity filled, meeting expectations? - Yes. - But they were not connecting with their staff and the team. - It felt a little wrong and after I let them go I discovered that I wasn't the only one feeling it. - The second they left everyone said, “What took you so long?”

- If you believe in talent and meritocracy, then you must believe in diversity.

Question: You talk about simplification? - We’re all searching for ways to run big complicated institutions.

- I had lost the joy in my work.

- I felt like we kept adding one more rule, one more meeting, and we were losing sight of our purpose.  We'd become a bureaucracy.

- I spent time with start-up companies in order to lead differently.

- Four ideas:  - Less Management (Simpler structures and processes, don’t get trapped in history and the past) - Focused Externally (the market rules, listen to those outside your company) - Start Today: Test & Learn (don’t wait to start something, do it now…don’t make it perfect first) - Network and be Transparent (connect people and be clear)

Question: You refused to take a bonus from your board 2 years in a row? - How I am perceived in the culture is critical. - The constituency you play to is not the media it’s your own team. - "Over time you’re going to question my decisions, but you’re never going to question my intentions."

Question: The worst thing I could find about you is that you work 80hr weeks and take 12 days off per year? - I love work and have a great family. - If you lead a challenging work life, you need a simple family life (1 wife, 1 family, 1 daughter) :)

Willow Creek Leadership Summit - Carly Fiorina - Defining Leadership

 

Leadership and Management are two different things.

Managers - work within existing constraints.

Leaders - change the order of things.

The greatest resource we have is the potential of people.

The only unlimited resource we have available to us is the potential in people.

Leadership is not about position, power, or big budgets.

The highest calling of leadership is to unlock the potential in others.

WHAT DO LEADERS DO?

Explain why our current state is unsustainable and why another future is more desirable.

Creating a Leadership Framework is what Leaders do.

(This session was incredibly affirming as we are in the process of doing this exact thing with our congregation, staff & leadership team)

1. Strategy, Goals, Vision: Where are we going, and why are we going there?

- The leaders must define these things.

- The more specific and clear these are the better.

- Exercise: Where are we now, and where do we want to be? (very specifically)

2. Organization, Team, Structure, Process: How are we going to work together to get this work done?

- Who’s on the team?

- How are we going to get this done?

- Often the organization structure doesn’t match the goals and the existing strategy is incapable of producing the desired outcomes.

- When I got to HP we were complex and organized into 80 different business units.

- There’s lots of places with lots of structures and organization, but no shared or common goals.

- Often we’ll reorganize before setting strategy, goals, and vision.

- DON’T REORGANIZE UNTIL YOU HAVE CLARIFIED GOALS, VISION, AND STRATEGY!

- Structure should always follow strategy.

- And strategy should always follow mission and goals.

3. Metrics: How are we going to count and measure process?

- What gets measured is what gets done.

- What are we measuring?

- What are we rewarding?

4. Culture, Behavior, Values: What’s it like to work here?

- People will listen to the talk for awhile, but then they will start watching the walk.

- Actions speak louder than words.

- The tough question is when an organization says it holds certain values in high esteem but then doesn’t act that way.

Your organization is made up of...

20% Let’s Go!!!!

20% "Heck" No!!! We Won’t Go!!! (satisfied with status quo)

60% Skeptics (waiting…change doesn’t happen unless the skeptics are moved…have to get engaged…this creates forward momentum)

- I believe that true leadership requires faith.

- Faith gives us the gift of humility.

- Faith gives us the gift of optimism.

- Faith gives us the gift of a servant’s heart.

- Like faith, leadership is a choice.

 

 

Willow Creek Leadership Summit - Session 1 - Bill Hybels - Hard Fought Leadership Lesson

1st Lesson: All Leadership is Spiritual. - having a direct influence on the emotions, mind, and spirit of others. Leaders see the vision before others can see it.

If we’re not careful the condition of our team becomes of secondary importance as we are consumed with mission/vision achievement.

Leaders with the highest level of vision often have the lowest level of awareness of the condition of their team.

Instead of asking the do I care too much about the vision question, we decide that the team doesn’t care enough.

At this point the team becomes expendable and interchangeable.

(Bill shared from his church’s experience of listening to his staff) - “I love our church, but I feel like a grunt” - Grunts are expendable, a cog in a wheel, and lowly valued. - "My biggest achievement in ministry is the transforming of our culture."

FIVE KEY COMMITMENTS WE MADE

1. Used an outside objective firm to survey out team and process the results (The Best Christian Workplace) - They benchmarked our engagement levels against other similar orgs.

2. Me and my executive team really had to own the process. - Your culture will only be as healthy as the senior leader wants it to be. - Only the Senior leader can bring about the change needed to move this transition forward.

3. We got serious about training everyone on our staff who managed employees. - I think it should be illegal for certain people to manage people. - People join organizations, they leave managers/people.

4. We raised the level of candor in our annual performance reviews. - Sharing the final 10% - The kindest form of management is the truth. - We added three words to our review: Start, Stop, Continue  Meeting Template: 3M’s Move, Modify, and Motivate - Start by framing the conversation about what you’re trying to move ahead. - Modify what isn’t working. - Motivate your team at the end of the meeting.

5. A ruthless commitment to resolving relational conflict regardless of how scary it feels. - “Reconcile” book by Lederach - Conflict is the opportunity to strengthen a relationship instead of a step in relational destruction. - The rift is the opportunity to come to new levels of understanding and relational strength.

2nd Lesson: Great Leadership is by Definition Relentlessly Developmental

Top Five Ways to Develop Emerging Leaders

1. Put them in high challenge roles.

2. Assign them to a short term task force.

3. Real time feedback.

4. Coaching and mentoring

5. Classroom courses and seminars

- I want to talk about #2…”Assigning them to short term task forces.”

Five criteria 

1. Success or failure must both be possible.

2. The emerging leader must take full charge.

3. Must work with wide variety of people.

4. Must involve real pressure and a deadline.

5. The end product must be evaluated by a senior leader.

- You’re looking for how “resourceful” they are… - Resourcefulness is the most important tool in a leaders skill-set. My dad taught me resourcefulness with two phrases “figure it out” and “don’t call me” - You have to ascertain how they go about figuring out what to do when they don’t know what to do.

“When is the last time you took the time to assign an emerging leader to a short term task force project with a pass fail outcome?”

3rd Lesson: Finding and Developing Leaders with a Legacy Mindset

John 10: Jesus parable on shepherds (2 types: Hirelings & Owners) - Hirelings: They don’t care about your sheep, They are there short-term, They will risk nothing for your sheep. - Owners: Care about the sheep, Have a long-term view, They will lay down their life for the sheep.

Mastering this skill can save an organization years of heart-ache

The average tenure of current CEO’s is 4 1/2 years.

In the church world we see hireling types, short-termers in our organization.

They don’t care enough, they won’t be around long enough or sacrifice enough to build long-term organizations.

I’m looking for legacy leaders who will fix an organization by riding out rough patches, address the long term economic viability of the organization, and invest in leadership development.

Ladder Climbers are focused on self-advancement, self-preservation, and self-fulfillment

Legacy Leaders leave something lasting behind when they leave.

ILLUST: HIS DAD’S DASH AND LEGACY - BOAT (worth 10's of K$ then... worth $1 now) - LAND (camp where dads and kids connect for 4 days)

“The grander the vision, the greater the price tag”

- Don’t be surprised when grand visions get costly and complicated.

Grand visions require developing ENDURANCE STRATEGIES  - I’ve had to retool my endurance strategies three times in the past 20 years. 1st - Vacation with family would replenish me. 2nd - With three grandkids they no longer replenished me. (I had to develop solitude vacations…it’s hard to hear God at Mach 2) 3rd - I’ve built solitude breaks into my schedule.

THE LOST ART OF HEARING FROM GOD

LOST ART HEARING GOD.0011 Samuel 3 tells the story of God speaking to Samuel during a time when it was uncommon for people to hear from God. "Samuel served the Lord by assisting Eli. Now in those days messages from the Lord were very rare, and visions were quite uncommon." - 1st Samuel 3:1

I wonder if we find ourselves in a similar place today?

Not that God isn't speaking...more like, it's uncommon for people to recognize God's voice from all the others crying out for their attention.

We're like Samuel who confused the voice of God with the voice of man.

"Suddenly the Lord called out, 'Samuel!' 'Yes?' Samuel replied. 'What is it?' 5 He got up and ran to Eli. 'Here I am. Did you call me?'" - 1st Samuel 3:4

We need to hear from God.

We need to be able to recognize God's voice.

The question isn't, "Is God speaking?"

The question is, "Am I developing the art listening?"

This weekend we'll be kicking off a 3 week series called "The Lost Art of Hearing From God".  

This would be a great series to invite someone who's needing to hear from God to join you for worship.

I hope you'll plan on taking time to listen in and see what God might have to say to you!

REFLECTING ON MY FIRST MARATHON

Yesterday I completed my first marathon.  It was incredibly painful, filled with mistakes, and at the same time one of the more fulfilling things I've done in my life.  And while the race "only" lasted a few hours, the preparation for the race has taken years. THE MOTIVATION

Most people who meet me now laugh when I tell them that a little over two years ago I was seriously over-weight and suffering from poor overall health.

How overweight, and how unhealthy?

Well in January of 2012, at 36 years old, I weighed in at 278 lbs and had just been diagnosed with severe high blood pressure (171 over 120).

While the health concerns had been bothering me for awhile, I had all kinds of reasons for not doing anything about them...

dale cubs game

    • I was too busy leading a rapidly growing church to take time to "get healthy".
    • I'm genetically predisposed to being overweight.
    • I'm too far gone to "get back" into shape.
    • My body wasn't capable of handling "serious exercise".
    • In the past few years I'd suffered a badly broken left leg, and totally blown out my left knee playing basketball (ACL replacement, MCL repair, and partial meniscus removal).
    • Additionally, I have a large bone cyst in my left leg, leaving me susceptible to another broken leg in the future.
    • And honestly, I kinda liked being able to eat what I wanted to eat and do whatever I wanted to do.

Only problem was, I couldn't really do what I wanted to do.

  • I couldn't play with my kids for more than 10 minutes without getting exhausted.
  • I couldn't sleep well.
  • I couldn't find clothes that fit well.
  • I couldn't know with any certainty that I'd be physically able to be there for my family.
  • I couldn't speak with integrity about anything dealing with physical stewardship.
  • And, as I found out in the fall of 2011, I couldn't fit into most roller-coasters at Cedar Point!

THE DECISION

A number of things came together in January of 2012 that led to me making a decision to do something about my health.

  • My doctor said I needed to go on blood pressure medication...(I really don't like taking pills)
  • My kids were tired of having a dad who was always tired...(I really love my kids)
  • My clothes didn't fit anymore...(I really didn't want to buy a 3X shirt)
  • My congregation expressed concern for my health...(I really wanted to lead & love them well)
  • My devotional and prayer times kept pointing me back to the connection between my body and my spirit...(I really desire to please God and be a good steward of all the the resources he's given me)

So in the middle of January I made a decision to get healthy and to take as long as I needed to in order to start living a physically healthy lifestyle.

THE WEIGHT LOSS

The first decision I made was to start tracking everything I ate using an app on my phone called "MyFitnessPal".  Our Family Life Pastor Connie had introduced me to it, and probably more than any other tool it helped me to take control of my eating habits.  For the next 700+ days I would log everything I ate...I missed one day this past February and haven't missed another since.

It amazed me to discover that I was eating anywhere from 3,000 to 4,000 calories per day!

No wonder I was continuing to gain weight.  Eating for me was a way of dealing with stress, and boy was I ever stressed.

I cut back to 1,700 calories per day and immediately began to lose weight...by May of 2012 I'd lost 30 lbs.

Once I weighed less than 250, I decided to begin working some limited exercise into my life.

THE RUNNING (WALKING)

I thought I'd try running as an easy way to exercise.  I didn't want to have to get up early and drive 20 minutes to a gym in order to exercise, so running made a ton of sense.  Get up. Put some clothes on.  Go outside.  Perfect!

Only problem was, I couldn't run.

Literally.

I took 10 strides and was out of breath.

So I started walking.

We had a 3.3 mile loop around the lake in our subdivision and I began walking around the lake.

It took what seemed like forever...usually about 1 hour.

But before long (1 month later), I was able to jog the flats and the downhills and only walk the uphills.

Three months later (July of 2012), I could jog the whole thing.

By now I was about 235 lbs and I signed up to run my first race, a 5+ mile trail run with my friend Bill from church.

I didn't break any land speed records, but I did finish in a little over an hour, and walked away thinking maybe I could run after all.

dale and bill evergreen run

Following this race, I simply continued to do what I'd been doing...

  • Eating about 1,700 calories a per day.
  • Keeping a food diary using "MyFitnessPal"
  • Walking or running 3-4 times per week (usually 2-3 miles)

By January of 2013 I had lost 85 lbs.

I decided to set a goal running a half-marathon in 2013 and began training for that goal.

By September of 2013 I was down to 175 lbs (100 lbs down), in the best running shape I'd been in, and ready to go for my first half-marathon.

Then we got a phone call that threw off all my plans...a church in Medford, OR wanted to talk with us about the possibility of becoming their next pastor...oh and the date for us to visit...just happened to be the same date as the half-marathon I'd been training for all year...bummer.

Steph and I both felt like this might be something God had for us, so we flew to Medford and forsook the marathon (well it was a half, but you get the idea).

THE REGRESSION

Fast forward to 2014.

Steph and I accepted the role of Lead Pastor at Medford First Church of the Nazarene and hit the ground running...or should I say not running.

From December of 2013 to April of 2014 I hit it hard at church...early mornings, long days, late nights, and minimal days off.  Not a great long-term strategy for health, but one we knew we were agreeing to at least for the first 6 months.

Our days were filled with breakfast meetings, lunch meetings, and dinner meals as we met our new congregation.

All of this left little time for training, and led to giving back about 15 lbs of weight loss.

By March of this year, I knew I had to get back into running and eating better.

I determined the best way to do that was to register for a race.

I wanted something big enough to keep me motivated.

I thought about the Eugene half-marathon, but since two of the other pastors at church were going to be running in the marathon, I thought, why not train for the full.

THE TRAINING

I began looking for a marathon training plan that would get me in position to at least finish the Eugene Marathon which was a little over three months away by the time I registered.  This meant that I'd be training for 13 weeks instead of the 16 which is usually recommended.  Not only that, but I had little base left from having taken off nearly six months from running.

While it wasn't probably the wisest decision, I can say with confidence, I'm really glad I decided to go for it.

I began training in early May, and then just two weeks into training developed a severe pain in my right foot.  I couldn't run more than two miles without stopping because of the pain.  I decided to shut it down for two weeks and prayed that the pain would go away and whatever injury I had would have time to heal.

Thankfully it did.

So I began training again, now two weeks behind on my already abbreviated training plan.

The first week back training, I began second and third guessing myself.

But I kept going.

And my training kept improving.

I was running two shorter tempo runs early in the week and then running my weekly long run on Fridays or Saturdays.

Because I'd never run longer than 10 miles before, I was surprised when I found myself feeling relatively good on runs of 14, 16, and 18 miles.

As good as I was feeling, my longest training run of 20 miles was a complete disaster (fueling problems, clothing problems, and cramping problems) it all really began to mess with my head going into the marathon.

THE MARATHON

Steph and I were thrilled to have our friend Becky fly into town for the weekend to run the half in Eugene and to be a part of my first marathon. What an encouragement!

The night before the marathon I slept pretty well getting 3-4 hours of sleep before my 3am alarm went off.

We arrived at Hayward Field about an hour before the 6am start time.

My nerves had finally started to kick in.

I started thinking...

  • "What if I go out too fast..."
  • "What if I mismanage my fueling..."
  • "What if I cramp up..."
  • "What if I can't finish the race..."

All of the above happened except for one by the way.

I'd trained for a 10 minute mile/pace which would get me in around 4:30:00.

I went out at a 10 minute/mile pace.

I felt great through the 5k.  I thought, "I could run like this all day."

I felt fantastic through the 10k.  I thought, "Seriously, running marathons is a cake-walk."

I felt incredible when I saw my wife and "The Best Cheering Section in Eugene" at the top of the hill at mile 8.

cheering section

I felt relatively good through 13 miles. I thought, "Wow, I could have smoked the half-marathon today."

Then it happened.

Shortly after mile 13 I started cramping.

Not just in one leg, but in both.

By mile 15 I had to walk up a hill.

By mile 17 the cramping had intensified and now, in addition to the cramping, it felt like someone was taking a hammer and smashing my left foot with every footfall.

My pace slowed to 13 minutes/mile.

Finally by mile 20 the cramping began to let up and I'd begun to tune out the pain from my foot.

Thankfully, at mile 23 I ran into my friend Becky who had decided to run with me for the last 3 miles.

I run/walked the final three miles into Hayward Field.

And I did it.

I finished my first marathon.

I ran (read "walked") around the field, cried when I got my finisher's medal, found Steph, and gave her a huge hug. (fyi...she cried more than I did).

dale marathon

I made tons of mistakes in my training.

I made tons of mistakes in my race.

But the biggest mistake I could have made would have been not trying.

 

 

 

 

What I've Been Reading Lately

One of the most common questions I get is, "What books have you been reading?"  So I thought I'd share a brief rundown of my recent reading list: Surprised by Hope by NT Wright (probably my favorite NT Wright book...if you are a pastor, counselor, or caregiver please read this book)

Deep & Wide by Andy Stanley (read it last year, and as a point of interest, this is the book the board read that helped lead to our landing here in Medford)

Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin(best history book I've read this year)

Cracking Your Church's Culture Code by Samuel Chand (great book on organizational culture)

Nature & Other Essays by Ralph Waldo Emerson (classic essays)

Meditations by Marcus Aurelius (classic read about self leadership and how to view others and the world)

War Room by Michael Holley (an overview of how Bill Belichick went about building and coaching his team)

Acts: NIV Application Commentary (practical commentary on Acts)

Church Unique by Will Mancini (book on uncovering the unique calling of each local church)

John: NIV Application Commentary (practical commentary on John)

Ephesians: NIV Application Commentary (research for Ephesians series)

Ephesians: An Exegetical Commentary (research for Ephesians series)

Start with Why by Simon Sinek (great read on how to lead movements)

The World is Not Ours to Save: Finding the Freedom to Do Good by Tyler Wigg-Stevenson (insightful)

Boundaries for Leaders by Henry Cloud

Real Life Discipleship by Jim Putman (practical book on mentoring)

Reading for Preaching: The Preacher in Conversation with Storytellers, Biographers, Poets, and Journalists by Cornelius Plantinga (fantastic book on creating a reading plan for preachers)

A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix by Edwin Friedman (great but not super clean language...spot on though)

The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy Keller (very strong book on the theology of marriage)

Effective Staffing for Vital Churches by Bill Easum (best book on staffing in the church I've ever read)

Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power by Jon Meacham (a bit slow moving, but well written...still need to finish)

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas (haven't finished...I find Bonhoeffer inspiring)

Predictable Success by Les McKeown (great stuff on the behaviors that lead to success)

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg (insightful)

Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer

Born to Run by Christopher McDougale

Great by Choice by Jim Collins (fantastic business leadership)

What Got You Here Will Not Get You There by Marshall Goldsmith (top book on self-leadership, re-read it this year)

There are several others that I've been working on, but this is a shortlist of the best.

What have you been reading?

Five Filters for Knowing You've Heard from God

photo This weekend, Pastor Larry Knight taught on "Following Jesus by Jumping Out of the Boat".  One of the points from the message was that we should jump at opportunities from God.  The question that I get asked over and over again from people is, "How do I know if an opportunity is from God?"

Great question!

Here are five filters I've found to be helpful in determining if an idea is from God or if it's more of the Jar-Jar-Binks variety.

1. What does the Bible say?

God will never lead you to jump into an opportunity that does not line up with what He's already revealed through Scripture.

2. What do wise godly people say?

Look around for some people who have a track record of hearing from God and following his direction and ask them what they think.

3. What does experience tell me?

This one seems obvious, but consider what your past experience has been and what has been the experience of others who have pursued similar opportunities.

4. What does the Holy Spirit say?

Take time to pray and listen to what the Holy Spirit says.  We're good at asking God to listen to us, but often don't stop to listen to what He's saying to us.

5. Will this opportunity make me more like Jesus?

Simply put, the Christian life is one of being transformed more and more into the likeness of Jesus.  Will this move make me more like Jesus? Or put another way, if I say no to this opportunity, will it prevent me from becoming more like Jesus?

What other questions have you found helpful in knowing you're hearing from God?

 

 

5 Things I Love About My Dad

Number5

It's difficult to name just five things, but here are five things that my father did that have helped me to become a better husband, father, pastor and follower of Jesus.

1. He's modeled patience, unconditional love, compassion and acceptance.

These are at the core of what it means to become like Jesus, and my father modeled these for me incredibly well.

2. He's encouraged me when I've messed up, and reminded me of God's faithfulness in the face of my failures.

I'll never forget receiving a simple note written on a sheet of yellow legal paper that my father slipped me at a very critical time in my life.  He expressed his belief in me, and then proceeded to remind me that even if I failed and messed up that it was God's faithfulness, not mine, that should define my future.  The truth of 2nd Timothy 2:13 written on that note has come back to me more times than I can remember, and every time it has encouraged me to rely even more on fully on the faithfulness of God.

3. He's invested time with me hunting, fishing, hiking, working, and worshiping.

There's nothing more valuable to children than time with their parents.  Nothing. (If it doesn't seem like that's the case for you and your children now...wait another decade or two)

4. He's loved my mother and his children well.

By well I simply mean that we were his priority ahead of career, hobbies, and hanging with friends.

5. He's chosen to serve others rather than to be served by others.

Never demanding to be served, but always looking for ways to serve and help others.  Both he and my mother modeled a life of humility and selfless-ness that reminds me a lot of Philippians 2.

My prayer is that as leaders in our homes, church, and community; the fathers in our church would live out this kind of love, patience, and humble leadership.

Happy Father's Day

3 Ways Reading the Bible Helps Me Follow Jesus

hear word The most important decision I made as a new Christian was to begin reading the Bible and applying it to my life everyday.  Now don't get too excited when you read that last part.  I'm nowhere near batting 1.000 when it comes to reading the Bible everyday.  But it is my intent to spend the first part of my day reading a passage of Scripture, reflecting on what God is saying to me through it, and praying that God would help me apply it to my life.  As I've practiced this habit over the past 18 years, I've discovered 3 major benefits from reading Scripture everyday.

1. I'm reminded that in Christ I am free.

"Jesus then said to the Jews who had believed in him, "If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." - John 8:31-32

Before I began to follow Jesus, I was ruled by lots of different things: self-focus, substances, and sensuality just to name a few.  But in reading Scripture I'm reminded that in Christ I have been set free and don't have to allow anything other than Jesus to shape my life.

2. I'm able to know the will of God.

"Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path." - Psalm 119:105

Like a lot of people, when I started following Jesus I wanted to know God's will for my life.  I wanted to know God's will for my relationships, for my career, for my weekend, shoot...I even wanted to know God's will for what I was supposed to eat for dinner.  Over time I began to learn that God's will for my life was found in God's word.  I've found that God speaks clearly through the Bible.  The biggest mistakes I've made in my life since beginning to follow Jesus have all happened when I got ahead of God and ignored what the Bible instructed me to do.

3. I'm corrected, redirected, and equipped for life.

"All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work." 2 Timothy 3:16-17

There have been times since I began to follow Jesus when I found myself looking very little like Jesus.  Whether it was the time I lost my temper, the time I allowed my fear to keep me from sharing my faith, or the time I struggled to trust Jesus with my finances...the truth is that there have been times when I was in need of being corrected as a follower of Jesus.  God's word has a way of bringing not only correction, but redirection in our thinking.  As I've allowed God to correct and redirect my thinking and my actions, I've found that I've been equipped to experience success in doing the work that God has created me to do.

If you've made a decision to follow Jesus, I'm convinced that there is nothing more beneficial to your spiritual formation than reading God's word and applying it to your life.

 

 

 

 

Follow Me - What does it mean to "follow" Jesus?

  follow me

"Follow me".

It's the simple two word phrase used by Jesus to call his disciples into a revolutionarily different way of life.

Two simple words that would forever change the direction and destiny of their lives and the lives of millions of others.

What does it mean to follow someone?

Here's a few different thoughts rolling around in my head today:

  • "To follow someone is to abandon your path for the path of another."
  • "To follow someone is to take an interest in what another person has to say and how they live."
  • "To follow someone is to allow your way of life to be influenced by the way of life of another."

A quick internet search reveals that the top 10 most followed people on Twitter are:

  1. Katy Perry
  2. Justin Bieber
  3. Barack Obama
  4. YouTube
  5. Lady Gaga
  6. Taylor Swift
  7. Britney Spears
  8. Rihanna
  9. Instagram
  10. Justin Timberlake

Inspiring, no?

7 musicians...2 social media companies...and 1 political leader.

  • How would "following" each of these "people" influence the way of life of their followers?
  • How would "following" each of these "people" influence the way of thinking of their followers?

What about Jesus?

  • How would following Jesus influence the thinking and way of life of His followers?

When Jesus says, "follow me" is he asking for His followers to like his status updates, favorite his vacation/travel pics, and retweet his 140 character quotable posts; or is He calling them to something much more life-altering?

This summer we're going to be looking at what it means to follow Jesus.

It will be enlightening.

It will be inspiring.

It will be challenging.

But most of all, I pray it will be a defining series for our church as we look to become a people who not only know about Jesus, but a people who truly follow Jesus regardless the cost, the challenges, or the consequences.

 

 

 

 

 

GETTING OUR PARTY ON - PARTY IN THE PARK

party_in_park_front One of our favorite things to do at BridgeWay is to celebrate life change.

We believe that Jesus changes lives, and that when people decide to go public with their decision to follow Jesus we should make a big deal out of it.

Since we started BridgeWay 8 years ago, our entire reason for existing has been to connect people to Jesus Christ and to God's purposes for their lives.  Getting baptized was Jesus' initiation into fulfilling God's purposes his for his life, and we believe it can be the same for us today.

So I want to invite you to celebrate.  To clap.  To cry.  To sing.  To shout.  To party!

Sunday, September 1st 

Idlewood Park in Morton

11am - Worship & Baptisms

We'll celebrate with an outdoor worship experience with live music & baptisms in the park.

12pm - 2pm BBQ & Family Festival

We'll keep the party going with free hotdogs, hamburgers, chips & soda for everyone (if you want feel free to bring other items for your crew as well)...and FREE inflatables, face-painting, balloon art, petting zoos, cotton candy, popcorn, sno-cones, and rumor has it there will be a dunk tank as well!

Invite your friends and family to a great day of fun and celebration this Labor Day Weekend!

* Bring a lawn chair or blanket for seating.