7 Personal Disciplines: A 90 Day Challenge

By | Culture, Devotional, Encouragement, Life Plan, Prayer | 27 Comments

I’ve always been considered a fairly disciplined person. There are certain disciplines that have made me who I am today.

In especially busy or stressful times of life, however, I do not always feel as disciplined in each area of my life. I may excel in one area, but not in another.

The only solution I know to remedy a lack of discipline is to add discipline. I also know that if I repeat a discipline long enough, it becomes a habit – part of the DNA of my daily life. This process has worked for me before. With that in mind, I’m adding some discipline to my life. I’ve done this before and it forms healthy habits I carry on throughout the year.

For the next 90 days, I’m attempting to improve in seven areas of discipline.

For the next 90 days, I plan to add these 7 personal disciplines:

Eat – I am what I eat many times. When I over-eat or eat the wrong foods I gain unnecessary weight and don’t feel as well as I should. My goal here is to average eating between 2,000 and 2,200 calories per day and to monitor the type foods I eat.

Pray – I know prayer is a life source. I’ve seen the results of prayer. Prayer doesn’t always change things the way I’d want them to be, but prayer always changes me. It gives me strength, comfort and confidence. Why don’t I pray more? My goal is to pray throughout my day, recognizing God is with me always.

Read – I need to be regularly reading my Bible and supplementing it with Christian and leadership books. I can be legalistic about Bible reading, but the discipline I need is to read it for relationship (with God), not just for education. Part of being discipled by others happens as I read other work. My goal here is to always be reading through a Bible book I’m not preaching about, journal about my Bible reading and to read at least one chapter of another book every day.

Write – I’m introverted, so I process information many times by writing. I’m fairly disciplined with my blog, but I have some larger projects I should be working on. My goal here is to average one hour extra writing time per weekday. I may do that in a couple days per week, but want to maintain that as a total hours each week to write.

Exercise – I know this is a secret to my productivity. My goal here is to do cardio 4 days per week minimum and exercise with weights 2 days per week.

Sleep – Through my life I haven’t usually needed a ton of sleep, but that has changed as I have gotten older. My goal here is lights out by 10:15 and to take short power naps as needed – and not feel guilty about them.

Pause – Anyone who knows me well knows I have a hard time staying still long. I do take a “Sabbath” and believe everyone “rests” in their own way, but this is a discipline to have some time during the week where I do absolutely nothing. My goal here is to have a 2 to 3 hour time each week when I pause from all activities. (I can assure you this will be the hardest discipline to complete.)

I’m excited about living a more disciplined life.

Do you want to join me? Would you commit to disciplining yourself in each of these areas over the next 90 days?

You can change the details of each discipline, you may need more calories or less, you may choose a different exercise, etc. (For example, the graphic I used is from when I did this several years ago. I no longer run like I did then. I’ll likely do this time on the elliptical or with fast walking.)

The key is to be disciplined in 7 critical areas of your life.

And don’t be legalistic about it either. This is not meant to bring another burden to your life. It is meant to help you be relieved from some – eventually. If you mess up one day just begin again the next.

Who is with me?

Which of this will be hardest for you to do?

Help For the Husband: Gift Suggestions for Your Wife

By | Christians, Encouragement, Leadership | One Comment

Maybe you’ve thought about Christmas for your wife, but you still have no clue what to get her. It’s the same problem every year. Gift card may be what you’re thinking. Cash perhaps. Let your daughter pick something up if she’s old enough.

No sweat. I understand. I’m here to help this year.

7 gift ideas for your wife this Christmas:

Make a coupon book

A date night a week – or a month – or make up 12 random dates. A movie. (One she picks.) A walk in the park on a sunny, Spring day. Dance lessons. A cooking class. Print a coupon for each. Then give her access to your calendar and let her claim them as needed.

Break a bad habit

She cares about you and who you are and what you do impact her. Perhaps you need to lose weight, so she worries about you. You need to quit smoking. Or, maybe it is the way you talk to her. Perhaps you are super critical of her or you talk down to her sometimes. You know its a bad habit, but you have just never improved. It may be as simple as never picking up your clothes from the bathroom floor. Whatever it is she may have subtly – or not so subtly – tried to suggest a change in you. You agree with the change, but haven’t made it. Just make it. Merry Christmas to you and her. (Habits stick when repeated 4-6 weeks I am told.)

Give her the gift of you

To make any relationship strong takes time and commitment, but we all get distracted by life. Make a commitment to speak less and listen more in the new year. Perhaps you symbolize this with a token of some sorts. Wrap up the remote and give it to her. Would that do the trick? Maybe it is a golf club – one of yours – symbolizing you will give her more of your free time. Maybe it is access to the calendar on your phone. You know the distractions in your marriage. Give her the gift of time with you in the new year.

Open a savings account

Put $100 or $50 – whatever you can afford, into a savings account. Label it “future investment in us!” Is there a family trip she’s dreamed about? Perhaps there is somewhere you always promised to take her. Take the first step this Christmas to make it happen someday. A great way to build relationships is to have something to dream about together.

One night in a nice Bed and Breakfast

Many men shy away from these, and many women do also, but for Cheryl and me, some of our most romantic moments were one night trips to a bed and breakfast. Make sure you get a private bath. A comfortable bed and a room with a view is great. If you plan ahead you will spend less than a really great hotel and the experience of reconnecting can be amazing for both of you.

Plan a gift together.

This is not for everyone. You know your wife. Some women have to have something to unwrap on Christmas. For Cheryl, she is just as satisfied if we are planning our Christmas giving together. We jointly agree to take a trip together as our Christmas gift to each other. We agree on something we want to buy for the house. This works for us. It might for you.

A trip away – in May

This is one of my best gift ideas. And, it does not have to be in May – just sometime later in the year. This isn’t as needed for us now, because we are empty-nesters and can travel when we want, but this was the rockstar gift when our boys were home. This is brilliant on several points. It builds positive emotions leading up to the trip. When she was having an exceptionally stressful day she could remember – at least we were getting away tougher soon.

In addition, we could plan the trip at Christmas, but pay for most or all of it later – which helped stretch our Christmas budget. (To do this I would often ordered brochures from a place I know we have thought about going and wrapped them in a pretty package. Sometimes I made reservations, sometimes I just picked the place. Either way, it is your responsibility to handle the necessary arrangements to make it happen.)

The Reality

Do you get the idea that these are more about time than even money? I’m convinced it’s what most women want from their husbands. I realize some will say their wife once did, but doesn’t now. If that’s true, it’s probably an indication of a bigger problem. It may even be because she wanted you then and you weren’t there. Maybe the answer is to give her more time now.

Now I should also encourage you to be responsible. Don’t spend money you don’t have. Many of these are very low cost ideas. Some you can budget for and pay later. Chances are good you are going to get her something and I’m guessing some of these might be better than a dress shop gift certificate or another pair of those ugly pajama bottoms.

Your marriage and your wife is worth the extra effort. This year, think through your gift. Be purposeful. The woman you love is worth the effort.

What gift ideas can you add to the list?

5 Qualities in Joseph’s Heart Every Leader Should Seek

By | Church, Encouragement, Leadership | 6 Comments

In this post I’d love to consider the heart of a leader.

Someone asked me recently what I primarily look for in the hiring of a staff position. I said, without reservation, first and foremost, I look for the heart. I want a heart which honors Christ more than self, one which desires to grow and learn, and one which is willing to sacrifice personal privilege for benevolent purpose of others.

The heart of a leader is more important than any other characteristic.

Consider, for example, the life of a Bible character by the name of Joseph. Joseph’s story runs from Genesis 37-50. It’s an amazing story of God’s sovereignty and grace. Joseph is a standard bearer for character in the Old Testament. Some say he’s in many ways an Old Testament example of Christ – not sinless, as Christ was, but certainly a God-fearing man.

I submit his heart we see in Joseph is representative of the kind of heart all leaders should seek to have.

Here are 5 qualities to seek in the heart of a leader:

Imagination

Joseph was a dreamer. It caused him some problems, but he was able to see what others couldn’t see. He saw the big picture. Of course, this came from God, but I believe God has equipped all of us with the ability to dream. It may not be prophetic in nature, but we can seek and find the big picture if we are looking for it.

Integrity

When tempted by Potiphar’s wife and when an opportunity for revenge against his brothers presented itself, Joseph resisted temptation. The leader’s heart must continually seek what is right and good. People are watching and even the perception of evil can ruin a good leader. The heart of a leader must be above reproach.

Investment in Others

Joseph helped the men in prison, he helped the Pharaoh and he even helped his brothers who had hurt him most. Joseph obviously believed the principle that helping others helps yourself. The heart of a leader must be willing to sacrifice his or her own agenda for the agenda of others.

Intentionality

Joseph was diligent during the famine, during the days of prison, even when he had the opportunity to get even with his brothers, but didn’t. Joseph was confident God had a plan for his life, so he refused to be distracted by things of lesser value.

Innovation

Joseph devised an ingenious plan to save the nations from desolation. Using godly wisdom, Joseph conserved the resources he had to accommodate the days of plenty and the days of few.

The ultimate hope of this post is you (and I) would reflect on your own leadership – consider your own heart as a leader.

What could you learn from the heart of Joseph?

3 Things I Would and 3 Things I Wouldn’t Do Again in Planting a Church

By | Church, Church Planting, Encouragement | 7 Comments

In 16 years as a pastor, I was a part of planting two successful churches. My most recent experience was in church revitalization, and we did experience some success there, but I still hear get questions about church planting.

The two questions I get asked most:

If you were planting another church…

What would you do differently?
What would you do the same?

Those are great questions, because the first few times I had to answer them it made me think through some of our best practices and some of the mistakes we made along the way (and we made plenty).

So, here are my answers.

Would I would do the same:

Utilize the power of “caged momentum”

If I were planting a church again, I would be afraid to make people wait. I would make the core team wait to launch until we were ready. Additionally, I would make people wait for programs until we were ready to launch them. For example, we made people wait to join a small group until we had our process and leaders in place. If necessary, I would make the students wait for a student service until leaders were in place.

Whatever the ministry, I would not rush to have it in place until we had things as planned as possible. You want everything to launch with excellence and that takes time to build. Of course, there is also the principle of missing an opportunity, so there is a balancing act to be played here, but the power of caged momentum cannot be dismissed. I would use it again. I wrote more about that principle HERE.

Look for holy discontent

We did and I would still look for people to help launch the church who have a strong desire for something more in their spiritual life, but who haven’t been able to find it. I wrote about that HERE.

Give my vision away

I would not be the only person with vision in the church. Instead, I would give others ownership in the plant. I would let others help decide how we do children’s ministry or what we do to serve our community, for example. The more people feel ownership in their work the more they’ll be motivated to do. I wrote about that HERE

What I would do differently:

I wouldn’t shy away from churched people

To stay true to our mission of reaching the unchurched, and so as not to offend other churches, we tended to “run” from those who already attended another church. In the process, we injured some people who were also sensing God doing something in their life. We also made ourselves very leadership poor and could have used more experienced help. I wrote about that HERE.

Build structure in early

In an effort not to be bound by traditions and organizational bureaucracy, we had little formal structure when we began. As we grew adding structure became unavoidable to prevent chaos. In the process, we learned it is much more difficult to add structure once an organization is established.

Instead, I would intentionally lead us to add needed structure early. Of course, you can do this in a way that still allows for continual growth. You can read more about that HERE.

Not be afraid to challenge people

I would not shy away from challenging people to higher standards in their personal life, even while trying to reach people who may be new to their faith. We learned that people want and need to be challenged, along with feeling loved, accepted, and valued. You can read more about that HERE.

Have you ever helped plant a church? What are some things you would or wouldn’t do again?

5 Things I Would Love to Say to Job’s Friends About Friendship

By | Christians, Encouragement | 3 Comments

I’ve always been captivated by the friends of Job in the Bible.

You remember Job – the man of suffering. He suffered the loss of everything. He lost children, finances, health, and finally the respect of his wife.

Somewhere in the grief process his friends came to see him. You can start reading about Chapter 2. They provide a bulk of the dialogue in the book.

I think we can learn a few things about how to be friends to those who are hurting from the friends of Job. I would love some day to share my thoughts with them.

Here are 5 things I’d say to Job’s friends:

Thanks for showing up. Sometimes physical presence is the most comforting way to help someone grieve a loss. When a friend shows up even at times when it may be uncomfortable – that’s what it means to be a friend. You proved to be a true friend. You even sat with Job — apparently not even eating — for seven days.

Thank you. Your witness is well-noted.

It’s important to always speak truth. As much as I love that you came, I need to also say that in times of suffering friends may need love more than they need answers. Some people in your culture apparently believed that all suffering was the result of sin. Maybe you didn’t know this part, but we know that’s not true about Job.

Therefore, it’s usually best not to provide commentary to another person’s suffering. You see, it simply doesn’t help.

So, you should have just said what you knew to be true. Nothing more. Sometimes that’s only stuff like, “Wow! You’re hurting. I’m sorry. I love you. I’m here for you!”

Not everything has to be explained. You had a lot of “ideas” why Job was suffering. Thanks for your insight. I’m certain he listened closely to you, because you were there and you were his friends. The problem is you couldn’t possibly understand all that God was allowing in Job’s life nor could you predict his final outcome.

Again, maybe explanations are more burdensome than they are helpful in a time of grief.

Silence isn’t deadly. Seriously. Sometimes silence is gold. Being quiet can even be the godly thing to do. Consider Ecclesiastes 5:2 for an example. You were actually at your best — before you started talking. The days you were silent were possibly as much help to Job as anything you did. It was your presence that was most valuable.

Therefore, don’t be afraid just to demonstrate your love with your presence more than with your words.

You help me better understand the Bible. Seriously, you do. See, I know the Bible is true. All of it. I believe it cover to cover. The whole Bible is truth. But not everything written in the Bible is true. It’s truth in that it’s God’s written word and it happened as it is written.

However, we cannot guarantee it as true, however, unless God is the One who says it. People talk in the Bible – people like you. So does the evil one.

And some of the things you said, while it is true you said them, they simply weren’t true. You meant well. But it’s not truth unless it comes from God’s mouth or it amplifies His truth.

So, I learn from that from you, Job’s friends. Thank you.

As a result of what I have learned from you, I must be present when my friends are hurting most. Everything doesn’t need to be explained. Not everything needs my input or my attempt at a solution. I should be okay with silence.

Also, may I never take what I’ve heard — or what’s culturally acceptable — as an indication of truth. It is important to stick with the Scriptures and an accurate interpretation of them.

And, when I don’t know truth to share, I’ll just be silent. And be present. Fully present.

When You Allow Others to Help You in Your Time of Loss or Pain

By | Church, Encouragement, Uncategorized | 8 Comments

When you allow someone to help you.

When you are in pain.

When you are in the midst of a trial.

When you are overwhelmed with more to do than you know how to do.

When you suffer loss.

When others offer to help you, let them help. And don’t be afraid to ask for another person’s help.

Because there is a key life principle about helping others.

When others help you it may be therapy for them.

We often resist help.

We are too proud. We don’t want to be an inconvenience. We want to appear strong.

But we ignore the help the helper gains from the helping the one they help.

When an injured pastor helps another injured pastor. It often is helping the helping pastor heal.

When a cancer survivor ministers to a cancer patient. The helper’s heart heals a little too.

A parent who lost a child is best equipped to minister to someone who has lost a child. And it often gives a slight sense of relief to their loss.

It doesn’t remove the pain – yours or theirs, but it often helps one deal with pain better when they help others that are in pain. Sharing in each other’s pain is a biblical principle. (2 Cor 1:3-7, Eph 4:2)

I have only shared a few examples. You can probably add many others.

Many times we gain perspective on our pain when we help others deal with their pain.

Don’t be afraid of help.

Opening your life, your stories, your pain, your experiences to others who can help – helps.

Sometimes more than you know.

A Leadership Experiment – The Little Things Matter

By | Church, Church Planting, Encouragement, Leadership, Team Leadership | 16 Comments

In making a first impression the little things matter.

When a visitor shows up on one of our church campuses for the first time the little things matter. When a parent decides to trust us with the care of their children the little things matter. In the way we follow up with guests the little things matter.

Most leaders and pastors believe this, but we often don’t pay attention to the little things. As a pastor, over the years, even as a very non-detailed, extremely big picture person, I started to notice the little things.

In one of of the first churches where I served as pastor, I felt I needed more buy-in from them in helping to lead the church. They were a great group of people who were passionate about reaching the lost, but they had begun to neglect some of the little things to keep a church operating. I wanted to encourage them to be more observant about what needed to be done.

I conducted an experiment. I placed a Sunday bulletin on the floor of the men’s bathroom right in front of the urinal. You couldn’t “go” without stepping on it or over it.

It stayed there through two Sundays and no one picked it up or threw it away. At the following Wednesday night leadership meeting, I brought the bulletin with me. I asked, “Does anyone recognize this?” (It was before I was a big a germaphobe as I am today.) Apparently, by the look on some faces, most of the men had seen it previously.

I wasn’t trying to be cruel, but it was a tangible reminder to them about making a first impression – the little things matter – and, more importantly, each leader plays a role in this. We were a small church. We didn’t have a custodial staff for the building we rented. We were the custodial staff. If the bulletin was to be picked up, one of us needed to do it.

They instantly recognized every man visiting our church in the last couple weeks had probably seen the bulletin on the floor of the men’s room. We only had one urinal – and we had very good coffee. Although it was a minor thing, just a bulletin on the floor, it had the potential to leave a larger impression. Imagine if the same visitor returned the next week to find the same bulletin still on the floor. (Of course, in a church plant, by the second week you may be plugged in enough to be picking bulletins off the bathroom floor.)

I’m not saying it was brilliant. It may not even have been nice. But the experiment made some impact. 

From this point, some of the men became more observant about the little things which needed attention. They started to take ownership in their roles as church leaders. I felt I had more participation in leading the church.

The point of this post is we must find ways to illustrate the importance of this principle – Little things matter.

By the way, I have always been curious if this same experiment would have worked in the women’s bathroom or would someone have picked it up?

Pastor, feel free to try this experiment at your own church. Or not, but little things do matter.

7 Things As A Pastor I Wanted From The Church

By | Church, Encouragement | 25 Comments

As pastor, I served in such generous churches. Almost every week someone sent me a note or an email to tell me they were praying for me. I routinely got encouragement when I need it most. Some of our closest friends were at the churches where I served as pastor. I’m so thankful for the body of Christ God allowed us to serve.

A question I received often was, “Pastor, what can I do for you?” or “How can I pray for you?”

I was so thankful for that kind of heart.

The church always did plenty for me, but since they asked – and I assume you may wonder what you can do for your pastor…

Here’s what I loved receiving from the church:

  • Understanding that I’m human and will make mistakes.
  • Prayers that I would stay focussed, committed and faithful.
  • Seeing a need within the church or community and meeting it without being asked.
  • Not looking to be spoon fed, but taking ownership and responsibility for spiritual growth.
  • Realizing that I couldn’t be everywhere or do everything I might  have wished I could.
  • Bringing new people with them to church as often as they could.
  • Making church services a priority over other activities – rather than the opposite.

I realize this is a daunting list.

It would not be an easy list to complete.

But people did ask, so it seemed I had an obligation to share with those who did.

By the way – I love the picture with this post:

Can I get an Amen?

Giving visible feedback to messages – that’s an added bonus!

Pastor, what would you like from your church?

One Secret to Having a More Productive Week

By | Church, Encouragement, Leadership | 13 Comments

Here’s a secret to having a more productive week:

Spend 30 minutes Sunday afternoon or evening, or even early Monday morning, planning your week.

I know that sounds overly simplistic, but it can actually be quite powerful.

Give everything you have to do this week an estimated time and then place it on your calendar.

Make sure you allot time for recreation, exercise and family. Even schedule some time to read and/or dream.

Then try, as hard as you can, to work the plan. When interruptions come in your week, unless they are true emergencies, you have a valid reason to say no.

I don’t do this every week, but I try to especially do this on busy weeks, when the demand on my time is more than I feel I can accomplish, or just when I really want to be most productive.

Let me know how it goes.

And don’t tell anyone – it will be our little secret! 

In my next post I will share a more detailed listing of how I do this.