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Sunday
Oct012017

What is 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 or 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 49 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.

 

 

Wednesday
Sep272017

Seven marks of healthy and unhealthy cultures!

Some churches/organizations have very unhealthy cultures that are causing great harm, and there are others that are healthy and bringing great joy.

Which is yours?

Dan Rockwell compares two very different kinds of culture. Seven marks of each kind.

 Originally posted by Dan Rockwell

Seven signs your culture is sick:

1.  Isolation prevails. Leaders and employees work in silos.

2.  CYA dominates. The first thing people think about when something goes wrong is how to cover their asses. CYA translates into, “Who can we blame?”

3.  Gravy stays at the top. Leaders keep the good jobs for themselves and delegate crap to everyone else.

4.  Gossip is endorsed. I’ll never forget a leader endorsing the practice of talking about people behind their back under the guise of confidentiality.

5.  Secrets abound. Organizations that need secrets have too many inequities.

6.  Politicians prevail. When brown-nosers, butt kissers, and credit-stealers prevail, self-serving and mediocrity wins.

7.  Developing people is an inconvenience.

Seven signs your culture is healthy:

1.  Organizational success trumps personal success. Team members commit to do what’s best for their team and organization. It’s time to leave if what’s best for the organization isn’t also good for you.

2.  Elephants dance. Healthy cultures discuss tough issues with optimism, toughness, and kindness.

3.  Diversity abounds. Cross-functional teams, diverse age groups, and the presence of female participants is expected and normal.

4.  Open minds win. Alternatives are invited, honored, and explored. Teams committed to one solution can’t adapt as they go.

5.  Leaders lift others. The spotlight points to performance not position in healthy organizations.

6.  People know and respect each other’s strengths. One of the best things you can do for your team is take the Clifton Strengthsfinder and publicly discuss results.

7.  Everyone knows what matters. Boldness requires confidence. Confidence is born in knowledge of and alignment with mission and vision.

 

 

 

 

Monday
Sep252017

Making the best of your job the most of your job!

Making the best of your job the most of your job is a thought from Marcus Buckingham.

Marcus has written two books that have been immensely helpful to lots of people and you will find “Book Notes” on my blog for them:

1.  “Go Put Your Strengths to Work”

2.  “The Truth About You”

If having a job you actually look forward to doing is an issue for you, I recommend that you check out these two books by Marcus Buckingham.


From the study and research I have done over the years on job fit (and people really liking their jobs), the conclusion I have come to is that most people don’t like their jobs. They live for the weekend and dread “blue Monday” when they have to return to work.

It’s so sad to spend a good chunk of your life doing something you are perhaps not very good at and don’t enjoy. I have always enjoyed the truth of Ecclesiastes 5:19: “Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work—this is a gift from God” (NIV).

Work is not punishment for the sin committed by Adam and Eve. Work was assigned to them before the fall. Work is a privilege in order to live out how God has created you and use the gifts he has bestowed on you.

It seems many people never seem to find the best fit. They spend a lot of their time at work on things that weaken rather than strengthen them. My dad was a locksmith most of his life. He confessed on numerous occasions that he was good at it and made a good living for his family, but he never really liked it.

He was not a happy camper most of his working life, but was willing to continue as a locksmith with the hope that he could retire early and do something else. He died at 52 and never got to that something else. I learned a great lesson through observation.

I’d rather do what I am good at and enjoy while making less money than making a lot of money doing what I’d rather not be doing. Since work occupies such a large portion of many people’s lives, it makes sense to get a good handle on who you are and where your greatest and most helpful contribution would be.

The key is to be gift/strength based; not need/money based in my job/career/leadership position choices...

Here are a few practical suggestions:

  1. Begin the process of crafting a purpose statement for yourself. If you email davekraft763@gmail.com - I will send you a document to get you started in this. This will provide a roadmap/blueprint to help you in making good career choices.
  2. Talk to some people who know you well and solicit a list of activities that they feel you are good at.
  3. Read the “Book Notes” for the two Buckingham books mentioned above.
  4. Volunteer in some areas that incorporate the activities you are good at.
  5. Initiate a conversation with your boss on spending more time on the things you are best at and less time on the things you are not. It will be a win for your employer and for you personally.
  6. Pray asking the Lord for his guidance and leadership in this area of your life
  7. If you know you are in the wrong job slot that has little to do with who God made you, don’t be afraid to consider another line of work. Life is too short to be miserable.
Tuesday
Sep192017

7 Characteristic of cowardly leadership

I have said in the past that most leaders are devout cowards. At times I get pushback on this. I hold my ground. The only thing that has changed is the number of leaders who may be cowards. I’m not sure if it is some, many or most. Suffice it to say I have been a part of a lot of cowardly leadership in my almost 50 years of vocational Christian ministry.

Ron Edmonds share with us 7 characteristics of cowardly leadership. Let’s see what you think.

Originally posted by Ron Edmondson

You remember the cowardly lion from The Wizard of Oz, don’t you? He was supposed to be the king of the jungle, but he had no courage.

I’ve known some leaders like the cowardly lion. If I’m completely transparent — at times it’s been me.

Let’s face it. Leading others is hard. There is often loneliness to leadership. Leadership takes great courage.

You have no doubt encountered cowardly leaders. Perhaps would even admit you’ve been one too.

Here are 7 characteristics of cowardly leadership:


1.  Say what people want to hear. 

The might say, for example, “I’ll think about it” rather than “No” – even no is already the decided answer. I get it. It’s easier. But the ease is only temporary. These leaders are notorious for saying one thing to one person and another to someone else. They want everyone to like them.

2.  Avoids conflict. 

In every relationship there will be conflict. It is necessary for the strength of relationships and the organization. When the leader avoids conflict the entire organization avoids it. Hidden or ignored problems are never addressed.

3.  Never willing to make the hard decisions. 

This is what leaders do. Leaders don’t have to be the smartest person in the room. They don’t even have to be the one with the most experience. Leaders make the decisions no one else is willing to make.

4.  Pretends everything is okay – even when they are not. 

When everything is amazing nothing really is. Cowardly leaders the loss over the real problems in the organization. They refuse to address them either because they fear don’t know how or their pride gets in the way.

5.  Bails on the team when things become difficult.

I’ll have to admit this has been me. I’ve written about it before, but when I was in business, and things were difficult, it was easier to disappear than face the issues. The learning experience was once I checked-out or when I was disappearing so was my team. Great leaders are on the frontline during the most difficult days, leading everyone through the storm.

6.  Refuses to back up team members.

No one wants to serve someone who will not protect them or have their back. People need to know if they make mistakes there is a leader who still support them and can help them do better the next time.

7.  Caves in to criticism.

Make any decision and a leader will receive criticism. Even if it is unfounded cowardly leaders fall apart when people complain. They take it personal and refused to see any value in it. These leaders see every criticism as a threat against their leadership rather then another way to learn and grow.

Friday
Sep152017

A three-fold process for leadership maturity

Though the years I have often wondered why some Christians, in general, and leaders, in particular, seem to continue to grow and mature and others stagnate or plateau.

I have come to the conclusion that part (not all) of the answer lies in what they do with the truth they know.

The end goal of course is maturity as His disciples and leaders.

“Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.”   Colossians 1:28 (ESV. Emphasis added)

 “…to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,…” Ephesians 4:12,13 (ESV, Emphasis added)

For this to happen, I believe that three things are essential:

 1. GOOD INFORMATION

God’s people need good teaching, good doctrine, the right information. We live in information overload mode today.  With the advent of the internet, there is no end to the amount of teaching, pod and vodcasts, books, magazines and blogs with good teaching. We need wisdom to not just focus on gathering more and more information but the right information, and then taking it to the next level. We need to be selective in what we read, listen to and watch. Everything available out there is not essential to our continued growth and personal development with Christ.

 2.  PRAYERFUL CONSIDERATION

 Given the teaching and knowledge I receive, I want to take time to prayerfully consider it, think about it and drill deeper to understand what it means. I personally believe that too much time is taken by lots of Christians and Christian leaders in  information gathering, but not enough time in thoughtfully and prayerfully considering and thinking about what they have received.

I think Paul had this in mind when he said to Timothy, referring to some people: “…always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.”  2 Timothy 3:7 (ESV).  Always gathering information and learning new things, but not able to truly deeply   grasp and understand what they have received. Too much receiving and not enough reflecting marks the lives of many in the body of Christ.

When I conduct my seminars I always allow time after every presentation to have the participants take a few minutes to reflect, pray about and write some thoughts on what they just heard. In addition to thinking on my own, it is critical that I’m part of a community group which is discussing truth to help me better understand what scripture is saying. Some of the best insights we receive is through regular dialogue with other believers.

Again, in my seminars, I allow around 30 minutes for group discussion following presentations. I firmly believe that thinking and discussion are keys to deeper understanding of everything, but especially God’s Word.

 3.  PERSONAL APPLICATION

 So, first we receive doctrine, teaching, information; then we intentionally take time to think and reflect over what we have heard and learned (both in solitude and in dialogue with other believers). The next step is to ask what it can mean to me personally and what I will do with what I have received and understood, through prayerful reflection and dialogue.

What we learn and understand will not change us unless it is applied through the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus told his disciple in John 13:17 ESV, “If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.” Scripture clearly teaches us (James 1:22-25) that it is not what we know but what we do with what we know that changes/transforms/matures us.

“When I think on my ways, I turn my feet to your testimonies; I hasten and do not delay to keep your commandments.” Psalm 119:59, 60 (ESV)

It has been my observation that the reason many Christians and Christian leaders don’t continue to grow and mature is that there is an over-emphasis on getting more teaching and a lack of emphasis on taking time to think, dialogue and personally apply the teaching to my own life. What we need is not more knowing but more going!

Ezra 7:10 (ESV) is very instructive on this for leaders and teachers of God’s Word, “For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach statutes and rules in Israel.” Notice the flow; set his heart, study, apply and then teach. It is very tempting to go from study to teaching with out applying it first.

Many leaders are information junkies and spend hours gathering, but precious little time in thinking, dialoguing and applying.

For you, is something missing in the maturing process?