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Sunday
Apr132014

Biblical Contentment

There are four things I pray for myself most every day:

1.  Purity (both sexual purity and purity of motive)

2.  Humility

3.  Contentment

4.  Patience

I have met, and worked with, my share of frustrated, unhappy, angry, domineering leaders--but not a lot of contented leaders.

Some equate contentment with laziness, complacency and lack of ambition. Nothing could be further from the truth. You can be very content and very ambitious at the same time. Contentment has less to do with the amount of, or intensity, of the activity you are involved in and more to do with your mind-set. Who are you truly trusting to see things happen in your life, relationships, work and ministry--yourself or God?

Over the last several months the theme of contentment has been on my mind, in my prayers and in my planning more than usual.

In some extended time with the Lord a week or so ago, I read through the book of Philippians in the Phillips Translation. In chapter four, starting with verse 10, Paul deals with contentment.  These statements stood out to me: “I have learned to be content, whatever the circumstances may be.” And, “Yes, I am quite content.” (Phillips)

I so want this for my own life and His ministry through me!                     

Here is what I am thinking about and praying about most days as it relates to contentment:

Who I am

This has to do with my identity in Christ.  Who he has made me to be: my gifts, my capacity, my personality, my upbringing, my education. I am a composite of all of these elements—and perhaps others as well. I don’t want to be somebody else, but just want to be me. I love Romans 12:6 in The Message, “Let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t.”

My daughter Anna once saw a bumper sticker that said, “Be yourself, everyone else is taken.”  Gotta love it!

What I am

Now, I want to make an important distinction between who I am and what I am. Who I am has to do with identity whereas what I am has to do with maturity. I don’t want to be content with what I am, but desire to grow--deal with sin in my life and confess and repent when the Holy Spirit calls me out on something. I don’t want to ever fall into the trap of making excuses by saying, “Well, that’s just the way I am.”

Where I am

Where I am has to do with sovereignty. I believe that God is sovereign and has allowed me to be where I am. It’s too easy to say I would be doing better, be more effective or fruitful if I were somebody else or someplace else.

Acts 17:26 (ESV): “And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place.”

Lorne Sanny, former president of The Navigators said, “Serve God where you are, because you can’t serve him where you aren’t.” Oh, to serve right here where I am and not be discontented or desire to be somewhere else.

What I’m doing

I want to be content with what he is allowing me to do and the opportunities he is sending my way for influence for the gospel and the kingdom. I want to begin each day with thankfulness for what lies before me and not be unhealthily desirous for something else.

I have heard many leaders say they are not happy where they are or doing what they’re doing, and are looking forward to something else, somewhere else.

Now, obviously there may come a time when the sovereign Lord of your life will give you something else to do and somewhere else to do it; but, until that happens, be content in your current situation.

What He’s doing

I can’t make someone grow or cause someone to become a Christian. I can plant and water but God makes it happen, “What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord has assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.” ~ I Corinthians 3:5-7 (ESV).

I don’t want what someone else is has. I don’t want what God is doing through and for someone else. By his grace, I want to be content with what he is doing right now, right here, in and through me…nothing more and nothing less. I don’t want envy or jealousy, flowing out of comparing, to be a slap in the face of the one who has called me and put me where I am.

After 45 years of vocational Christian ministry I am finally starting to understand  what true biblical contentment is all about. I hope it doesn’t take you that long.

 

 

 

Saturday
Apr122014

Seven Traits That Make A Great Team Member:

Perhaps you have heard of the acrostic for teams, Together Each Accomplishes More. In my experience it’s true.  No leader has all that it takes to accomplish all that needs to be done.

The smart leader learns the skill of building complementary teams. As you build a team to help you carry out the vision the Lord has given you, what are some traits to keep in mind as you prayerfully make your team selections?

Ron Edmondson has some solid ideas on what to look for. 

Originally posted by Ron Edmondson

In the business world and in the church, I’ve learned that having a good team often makes the difference in how well we do at reaching our objectives.

I have been blessed with some great teams in the past. As a result, I frequently get asked if I have any openings on my team. I have a good team now. More than that, I’m asked how I continue to put together such great team. I’m not bragging, it’s simply that I’ve learned a few things about great teams. The longer a great team is together, the better it seems to work together.

I was reflecting recently on what makes a great team member. What is it that causes some teams to gel better than others? What are some of the joint characteristics we share?

Here are 7 traits I believe make a great team member:

1.  Sense of humor

It’s critical that you be able to laugh…at life…at corny jokes…and sometimes at or with each other. I think teams should have fun together. It makes us a better team. We may even occasionally be found in the hallway playing a game. Life…and ministry…is stressful enough. Let’s laugh a little. Together.

2.  Team spirit

We have no lone rangers on our staff. We rebuke struggling alone! We are part of a team and there are no turf wars on our staff and no one should be drowning in a project without some help.

3.  Work ethic

 I’ve never been great at managing people. As a leader, I simply rely on people having the sense of responsibility and inner drive needed to complete the work. We set definite goals and objectives…measurable wherever possible, but I surround myself with other leaders who are passionate about Christ, our vision and other people and are willing to do whatever it takes to accomplish the vision.

4.  Heathy personal life

In ministry, we deal with a lot of messiness in other people’s lives. It would make it very difficult to maintain the level of ministry required of us if we were not personally living healthy lives spiritually, emotionally and, as much as it depends on us, physically. That doesn’t mean we don’t have issues or problems of our own…of course we do…but we are striving to be healthy individually and together.

5.  Transparency

Great team members share burdens with one another. (That’s another way they stay healthy.) Team members don’t live on an island to themselves. The more a team learns to trust each other the greater this process becomes. The team is open to challenge the system, the ministry, the leader, and each other in an attempt to make the organization better.

6.  Loyalty

It is imperative in any organizational structure that a team member be dedicated to the vision, organization, senior leadership and the team. There doesn’t have to be unanimous agreement on every decision…that would be unhealthy…but there must be unanimity of purpose.

7.  Servant’s heart

If one cannot approach their position from a point of serving others and Christ then he or she will not work well on a good team. It should be the model of the entire ministry, so certainly it must be represented by the team members first.

I’m sure there are more, but those are the ones that come to my mind first.

 

Thursday
Apr102014

Building, or Rebuilding, Trust in a Team

 

In his seminal book “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team,” Patrick Lencioni mentions the absence of trust as the first step downward from healthy team dynamics.

When someone on your team, in your organization, or in your family says, “I don’t trust you,” a meaningful relationship is on the downhill slide. Now I’m sure that quite a list of things could be created in order to build or regain trust that has been lost.

From my personal experience and observations as a coach and leader, here is a short list to facilitate both the building and regaining of the critical trust component in any team endeavor, whatever that endeavor might be:

1.  Keep your word

If you told someone you would call them, then call them. If you said you would have what they requested on Friday, then have it on Friday. If you said you would meet them at a certain place/time, then be there and be on time. Believe me, when I say that simply being good for your word builds credibility and trust and, conversely, being a person who says one thing and does another on a consistent basis will cause a major trust leak in your relationships.

2.  Tell the truth

Even if it hurts or causes embarrassment, tell the truth.  If you always tell the truth, you don’t have to have a great memory. How many leaders have you known, read about or heard about that were caught in lie after lie. They were congenital liars and had perfected it to an art. They could lie right to your face and make you believe them (at least some of the time.)

Some leaders have gone to their graves believing their own lies, which they told themselves and others for years. It was lies that brought down former President Richard Nixon. It was years of lies that caused the demise of business leaders like Bernie Madoff.  They lied to themselves, their families and their business associates.

3.  Be transparent

Be real and be open. Be who you are and don’t try to be someone else. Share as much as you can of your life, your mistakes, your weaknesses.  I used to think that people would not respect me if I confessed sin and displayed weakness or if I said I didn’t know when asked a question. It took me years to understand that being vulnerable and transparent gained respect, not lost it.

4.  Over communicate

In my opinion, it’s better to over communicate than to under communicate. Within reason, and not compromising sensitive information that simply cannot be shared, share as much and as often as you possibly can. Trust begins to fade when people think you are hiding something from them or covering something up.

5.  Under promise and over deliver rather than over promise and under deliver

How many times have I heard someone say, “I’ll have it done by_____.”  The day and time comes and goes and it’s not done. I have learned the hard way…if I promise, I will do it. Even if I have to stay up all night, I will do as promised.

 Since I don’t relish the thought of staying up all night, I’m slow to make promises which I’m not reasonably sure (no matter how hard I’m pressured to promise) I can fulfill. This is especially true of children who have long memories of the broken promises their parents made to them. Not a legacy you want to leave!

What I often do now is ask, “When do you need this, at the latest?”  Then I will think about it, pray abut it and look at my schedule to make a determination if it is possible. I’d rather say, “I will do my best to have it for you on_____, but cannot promise.”  It’s part of being good for your word, which (sad to say) many leaders are not. It’s encouraging to see the face of someone light up when they got something earlier than promised. You can light up the faces of others, and save face yourself, by under promising and over delivering.

So, now it’s your turn! What would you add to this list? What, from your experience as a leader, have you learned that builds trust or regains lost trust?

 

Tuesday
Apr082014

Principles For Goal Setting That Work

Years ago I picked up a book titled, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll probably end up somewhere else” by David P. Campbell, PhD. I bought it because of the title, but it also turned out to be a great read.

Goal setting is simply a way, with God’s help, to determine where you want to end up…at the end of your life, the end of a decade, the end of a year, a month or a day.  I believe that Jesus had goals, as well as did Paul, Moses, Nehemiah, to name a few.

Here some excellent thoughts from Matt Perman on principles for goals that will work.

-------------------------------------------------------------------

Matt is the author of What's Best Next.

Originally posted by Matt Perman on March 14, 2014

“Seven Principles For Goal Setting That Work”

Executives who do not ask themselves, ‘What can I contribute?’ are not only likely to be aiming too low, they are likely to aim at the wrong things.

—   Peter Drucker

How do you make change happen? More than that, how do you make the right change happen? When there is a gap between what is and what you want to be, how do you cross that gap?

This is where we enter the realm of goals.

In my first job out of graduate school, I was given a massive task that was far beyond anything I had been prepared for: redesign the entire website for the major ministry I worked for—while launching a nationwide radio program and keeping several other initiatives in motion as well.

So how did I keep things together? I learned about setting goals.

At first, I got all caught up in all the different types of goals we encounter, and the detailed (and sometimes overly complex!) processes for defining our goals.

Fortunately, I came to discover that more important than the particular process we use to set our goals are some fundamental principles that can help us identify the right goals in the first place.

With those principles, I set our goals for the website redesign. When we released the site, it was a turning point for our ministry and our primary website metrics quadrupled within four months. I’ve since used these principles whenever I need to set goals (which is a lot!—I set yearly goals, annual goals, weekly goals, and much more), and they have never let me down.

So no matter what types of goals you are setting or for what time frame, here are seven core principles for setting goals that will help you make a bigger difference and get you to a place you actually want to be.

1. First ask “what needs to be done?”

Goals are about making a contribution. Therefore the first question you need to ask is not “what do I want to do?” but rather “what needs to be done?” Asking this question first focuses our attention on contribution rather than simply activity or what will serve ourselves.

The point here is not that our own interests don’t matter. They do matter—immensely. The issue is the end towards which you direct your interests. When setting goals, you need to ask first what outcomes your family needs, what outcomes your organization needs, and what outcomes your community needs, not first what outcomes you need. You need to put your interests in the service of others, not first yourself (see Philippians 2:4-5).

2. Then ask “where can I contribute best?”

When you ask the question of what needs to be done, there will almost always be more than one good answer. This is where you take into account what you are passionate about, your strengths, your interests, and what you want to do. When there is more than one thing that needs to be done, choose the one that is most in line with your interests, skills, and strengths.

The relationship between what needs to be done and what energizes you is iterative—thinking through each side can affect the other. What you are looking for is the overlap. Except for extreme cases (emergencies where there is no other option), don’t compromise here.

3. Ask “what are the constraints?” last, not first.

Most people put this question first, and that’s what ends up creating so many problems in the long run. This question must be last, not first, because as Peter Drucker points out, you will almost always have to compromise something—and you can never know what the right compromises are unless you first know the ideal state you are aiming toward.

Don’t limit yourself right out of the gate. Compromises will have to be made, but unless you start out with the ideal outcome, you will always make the wrong ones.

4. Aim high and lead.

Don’t simply jump on the bandwagon, and don’t be drug down by people with a militant commitment to mediocrity. Set large goals and make big plans.

5. Keep your goals aligned with your mission and values.

This is what discipline is. Discipline is not necessarily doing less, but making sure that all that you do is in line with your mission and values—especially for organizations.

In fact, many organizations that look disciplined because they seem to be very focused are actually very undisciplined, because their focus is not being determined by their mission and values. Don’t settle for mere appearances of discipline by simply doing less. Be truly disciplined by focusing on the things that embody and reflect your mission and values.

6. Re-consider all of your goals each time you accomplish a goal.

After accomplishing a goal, if you simply do what’s next on your list, you run the risk of being held captive to the priorities of yesterday. Therefore, always reconsider your priorities before setting a new goal, rather than simply doing what’s next on the list.

7. Pursue justice and mercy in your goals.

Goals have a reputation of being about how we can make our own lives better. But that is not the life of greatest meaning and significance. The life of greatest meaning is when we use all that we have to take initiative for the good of others—even to the point of making plans for their welfare.

Setting goals for using any influence we have to go the extra mile and bring benefit to those in need is a fantastic way to do this—and a great privilege. It helps us ensure that we are setting goals that really count and will really be meaningful in the end.

Sunday
Apr062014

Confidence or Arrogance? What's The Difference?

 


Confidence or Arrogance -- 

How can you determine the difference?

Throughout my 54 years as a Christian, I have hit upon some ideas that beg for an answer to satisfy my curious and processing mind. Sometimes I get some resolution…sometimes not. When I hit on a thought or make an observation, my mind and heart go into overdrive as I study, think, pray and ask for wisdom.

Here are three of the questions and puzzles I have wrestled with through the years.

  1. How can we have a free will and God be sovereignly in control at the same time?
  2. Why is it that so many Christians don’t seem to grow, mature and become transformed even though they are sitting under some of the best preachers and teachers in the world
  3. What role does obedience play in the Christian life? If everything is of grace in salvation and sanctification and has nothing to do with human effort or what I may bring to the table,  where does obedience fit in?

Last week I had a meal with a very successful young businessman. Even though he is in his early 30s, he has already achieved more than most do in a lifetime of work. He is very confident in who he is. He has an incredible work ethic and possesses a very winsome personality. He is certainly heading toward being the CEO of something before he is 40. I told him to be very careful of becoming proud/arrogant due to how fast he is rising and how gifted he is. He said he would give that some very concentrated thought and prayer.

As we were eating I asked him several questions:

  1. What is the difference between being confidence and being arrogant?
  2. How might confidence morph into arrogance?
  3. What is the difference between God-confidence and self-Confidence?

It says in 1 Peter 5:5,6 “Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (ESV).

No thinking Christian wants to be opposed by God, and yet this verse says God opposes the proud.

I remember many years ago, listening to a very well known Christian leader whom I felt exhibited amazing confidence in his message, his gifting and his work. Someone else listening to the same man called him arrogant. That experience was the first time I began to wrestle with the difference between confidence and arrogance.

Admittedly and intentionally I have not provided answers to these important questions.

How about you, the reader of this post, using the comment section below, providing some answers to the three questions above?  Let’s get a good dialogue going on a very important topic.