The Hazard of Learning

I love to learn but I’ve discovered there’s a real nuisance that accompanies acquiring new insights.  Think about the trouble it causes. When you read a book, listen to a podcast or attend a conference you’re exposed to other people’s experiences and success.  When you’re exposed to other people’s experiences and success it stirs new ways of thinking. When you’re stirred to new ways of thinking it generates new ideas in your mind.  When new ideas are generated in your mind it requires time to sit, think and develop them.   When you sit, think and develop new ideas you start dreaming about new possibilities.  When you dream of new possibilities you develop specific goals. When you develop specific goals you end up developing next steps. When you develop next steps it motivates you internally to take action. When you take action things around you begin to change for the better.  When things around you begin to change for the better other people get excited about what you’re doing. When other people get excited about what you’re doing they want to join in the effort. When others want to join the effort your team begins to grow.  When your team begins to grow change happens at a rapid pace. When change happens at a rapid pace you begin to change the world.

Wow, that’s a lot of trouble from just one new little insight.

Are You Growing?

I’ve heard it said so many times, “When you stop learning, you stop leading”.  I don’t quite agree with that statement because I’ve known plenty of people who stopped learning but they kept leading.  I think it’s better to say, “When you stop learning, you stunt your ability to lead well.”  Growth is an essential discipline to healthy leadership.

Did you grow yesterday?  What about last week?  While growth isn’t always easy to see it’s generally easy to sense if it’s happening or not.  Are you growing or have you just ground to a halt?  Sometimes I find that I stop growing simply because I took my eye off the ball, I just let it slip.  Other times I stop growing because I get too busy to maintain growth disciplines.  And then honestly, there are times I just get stubborn or lazy.  But as I look back over my 51 years I find that I am happiest when God is stretching me, teaching me and growing me.   But growth is a choice I have to make as well.

It’s easy to become stagnant because growth is work.  In fact I’ve discovered that growth always requires sacrifice.  You may have to give up time, money, comfort or your personal agenda in order to really grow. There are times God will ask you to walk away from something you love, give up something you want to do, or leave a place you are comfortable.  But it’s these type of sacrifices that center our attention on His voice and make our mind fertile ground to receive new learnings.

If we keep our ear to God’s heart there will be times we find that He says, “I want you to sacrifice something because I want to teach you something”

What do you need to sacrifice this week in order to grow to the next level?

Warning Signs Your Marriage is Disconnecting

Over the years I’ve watched ministry take a toll on many marriages.  I’ve watched good, well-intentioned pastors lose their marriage, family and job because they loved the church more than they loved their wife.  The demands of ministry are great and never ending.  That’s what makes it so difficult for good hearted men to say “NO” and have times they are intentionally unavailable.  But this is the very discipline it requires to nurture the most important love of your life.

Marriage is a living organism that requires constant nurture.  While you may not realize it your relationship is never in neutral, you’re either moving forward or backward, growing to new levels of intimacy or drifting toward disconnect.  I’ve discovered several warning signs that can help identify the “disconnect” before the damage is too severe.  If you see any of these in your relationship it’s likely you’re experiencing relational drift and need to make some quick adjustments.

  • Not serving one another.  When there is a high level of connection among a couple they willingly and intentionally serve one another.  But a couple that is disconnecting tends to be self-focused.
  • Subtle withdraw. Couple’s who are disconnecting find themselves in different rooms doing their own thing in the evenings or on their day off.  Instead of doing life together they’re doing their own thing.
  • Selfishness.  If I find myself looking to “GET” rather than “GIVE” to Cindy it’s a clear indication that we’re disconnected.  Love focuses on the needs of others. When I’m focused solely upon my own needs I’m failing to love my wife.
  • Critical attitude.  If you find yourself nitpicking your spouses habits or actions then it’s a clear indication that a disconnection has taken place.  Ruth Graham has been quoted saying, “My job is to love Billy, not change him.”  A critical spirit is often an indication of suppressed anger.  So if you find yourself being critical look for the deeper reason for your attitude.
  • Lack of touch.  One of a woman’s greatest needs is affection, while one of the greatest needs of a man is sexual fulfillment.  When a couple neglects the physical development of their relationship it’s a sign they’ve disconnected. Touch is an essential element in maintaining a healthy connection in your relationship.
  • Impatience.  Marriage requires selfless humility.  If you find yourself being snippy or short you need to investigate why.

What’s your next step to take your marriage to another level of connectedness?

The Final Word on Forgiveness

We started a new series at West Ridge Church yesterday titled “The Last Words”.  I had the opportunity to kickoff the series teaching on Luke 23:34 “Jesus said, ‘Father forgive them for them know not what they do.

When someone offends, betrays or hurts you there’s something deep within you that screams, “I can’t let them get by with this.” Your blood begins to boil and you think, “I didn’t do anything to deserve this. I was the one who was honest, I was the one who loved with my whole heart, I was the one who sacrificed for years, I was faithful, kind, generous, loyal, I held up my end of the deal, I gave my best.  And without warning, they hurt me!”  What are you supposed to do with that?  How are you supposed to forgive someone who is deliberately trying to destroy you? How are you supposed to forgive someone who never said I’m sorry?  How are you supposed to forgive someone who acts like they don’t even care that they hurt you?  In this message I give three Questions to help you process your pain and help you get to a place of true Biblical forgiveness and freedom from resentment.


The Last Words: Forgiveness from West Ridge Church on Vimeo.

Do Great Things

Ideas have the power to change an organization, change a life and change the world.

  • Think about a song that’s moved your heart closer to God.
  • Think about a resource that helped you achieve greater results.
  • Think about a book that shaped your values and character.
  • Think about a church that’s transformed your life.

All of us have encountered things that have significantly changed the course of our life.  But think about it…those things that changed us, added value to, challenged, or shaped us… didn’t always exist.  There was a point in time when someone, somewhere had a thought…an idea.  In that moment God touched their mind with inspiration and they said to themselves, “What if?”  And then a God inspired idea was born.

Often in those moments a battle takes place in our mind.  Right on the heels of inspiration comes the temptation to doubt the ideas legitimacy.  Our minds race with thoughts like, “This is crazy”, “I can’t do this”, “what will other people think” or “this is impossible.” But don’t forget sometimes great ideas require great risk and great sacrifice.

Somewhere in your heart there’s a passion, a gifting, a calling to do something great.  Don’t ignore it because the world needs more great songs, great books, great resources and great churches.

We follow a great God, so attempt great things.

How to Read a Book for Transformation

For years I used to set a goal of reading 52 books between January 1 and December 31.  And for several years I accomplished that goal.  I still think that’s a good discipline for a young leader, but as I grew older something inside told me to slow down.  I sensed I was at a stage where I needed to focus less on information and focus more on transformation.  So I started reading fewer books. But that still wasn’t having the growth impact I was longing for.

It took a while but I finally developed a 6 Question System for reading that seemed to take me deeper into the content and impacted my thinking in a more tangible way. Today when I read a book I start by reading the table of contents and dividing it into sections.  Sometimes a section is one chapter, sometimes it’s 2 or 3 chapters.  But I define the specific chunks in the book I will apply these questions too.  I find this more helpful than applying all six questions to every single chapter.  As I read here are the six questions that force me to read that section on a deeper level.  I hope you find this as helpful as I have.

  • What stood out to you the most? I don’t actually write the answer to this question.  But I answer this by using a highlighter to mark every sentence that stood out to me.  In a 10-page chapter this may be as many as 40-60 sentences that stood out as important or as key thoughts.
  • What challenged your thinking the most? Now that I’ve finished reading the chapter I go back and read my highlights and put a “C” by no more than three highlights.  Next I write down in my journal (Evernote) the answer to what challenged me the most.  Narrowing it down to just three things that challenged me and writing the answer to that question makes me process the content at a whole new depth.
  • What did you question or disagree with? It’s always tempting to skip over this question.  Many times we don’t pause long enough to question the content of what we just read.   So I look back over my highlights and put a “?” beside one or two things I questioned or disagreed with. Next I write in my journal what or why I disagreed.  Or if I didn’t disagree with anything I write out what questions were raised in my mind.  This forces me to look at the content from a different angle and process even deeper.
  • What 3-5 action steps will you take as a result of your reading? Next I write down what I’m going to do as a result of reading the content of the chapter or section.  If you don’t put into practice the principles you learned those principles will never be translated into new behaviors.  So force yourself to find a few action steps you will take.  Remember there is no transformation without application.
  • What area did my reading reveal where I need to grow? Now to really get the subject material into your soul think though an area of Personal Growth the reading revealed for you.  As I look back over my highlights I put a “-“ beside a section that reveals a needed growth area of my life.  Then I write out where and how I need to grow in that area.  So as you review your reading section ask yourself:  Did it highlight a specific area of weakness that I need to work on?  Did it reveal a poor attitude, an undeveloped skill, a bad habit, a relational roadblock that needs to be dealt with?  If we really want to change we’ll take the time to identify those specific areas of growth potential in our own life.
  • What area of strength did this reading affirm about my leadership? Finally, I look for strengths that the chapter affirmed in my life or leadership.  As I read back over the highlights I put a “+” beside the section that revealed what I am good at. We become better leaders when we focus on developing our strengths. So make sure you allow the content you’re reading to affirm the positive aspects of your leadership.

So grab a good book that you think will challenge you to grow as a leader.  Buy a journal or open up your Evernote. And don’t forget, this method of reading requires greater patience but results in bigger payoff.  Hey, give it a try and let me know what you think.

Want a New Job

Finding a new job in this economy is difficult. So if you’re dissatisfied where you’re at instead of trying to find a new organization why not try a new outlook. Here are four steps you can take that might help you find greater satisfaction right where you’re at.

Clarify your strengths. The Gallup research shows that employees who operate in their areas of strengths are more satisfied and engaged in their work. If you’re struggling knowing what your strengths are read: Now Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham.  On page 79 the author provides a link to the strengthfinder assessment which will help you identify your top 5 strengths.

Identify your weaknesses. When we’re working primarily in your weaknesses it’s difficult to find momentum or satisfaction. Sometimes simply writing down the things you’re not good at can lead to a productive plan for change. If this seems to be your challenge I recommend you read another book by Marcus Buckingham, Go Put Your Strengths To Work,.  This book also offers an online assessment that helps you measure how engaged you are at your current job.

Clarify your outcomes. Progress and productivity feel good. If you’re working day in and day out and not feeling like you’re making a significant contribution then it’s time to rethink your outcomes. What do you want to see happen as a result of the 40-50 hours a week you invest at work? Write down some specific goals that you can aim toward over the next 90 days. If you don’t like goal setting I recommend you read Stop Setting Goals by Bob Beihl.

Connect relationally. It’s difficult to find energy when you feel isolated and alone. Again, Gallup’s research shows that people are more engaged and productive when they feel like they have a friend at work. Sometimes people are unable to connect at work because they’ve never developed the people skills they need to make friendships.  If you’re struggling with feeling isolated I recommend you read Relational Intelligence by Steve Saccone.

So if you’re struggling with your job, before looking in the classifieds give a few of these suggestions a try.  A change in your situation is not always an option, but a change in your attitude always is.

Consultant to God

This morning I counted over 25 verses in the New Testament that refer to leaders being a “servant of God.” Paul, Peter, James, Jude and John, each great leaders and each called a “servant of God. “  I don’t know that I always like that title.  I want to be “Leader for God” or “Go to Guy for God” or sometimes I even want to be “Consultant to God”.

Come on admit it…aren’t’ there times you find yourself questioning God on His decisions, resourcing, timing or outcomes?  If left up to me I would do things differently, faster, bigger, simpler or flashier. It’s not easy to take on the disposition of a servant. To often, I think I know best and I find myself acting like a consultant to God rather than a servant of God.  As a consultant to God I urge Him to move according to my timeline, advise Him on the next “best” move, warn Him about potential obstacles and recommend preferred outcomes.  A consultant to God “tells”.  A servant of God listens.  A consultant to God says “God, do this or that”.  A servant of God simply says, “Here I am Lord, send me.”

Are you living as a consultant to God or a servant of God?


Get Yourself Motivated

There is nothing worse than not being motivated. The Gallup organization indicates that as many as 74% of US employees are not “fully engaged” in their work. In other words they are going through the motions but not finding meaning or fulfillment in their work. So what can you do to kick start your motivation and get a little fire back in your belly? Here are a few simple ideas.

Be a Ferocious learner. When you are learning it expands your mind and gives you new ideas. And fresh ideas are like gasoline in your motivational tank.

Exercise Daily. Sometimes our lack of motivation is not emotional but physical. Get outside, get moving and you’ll find that when the endorphins start firing you will get a spring in your step both physically and mentally.

Put Your Strengths to Work. There’s nothing more motivating and fulfilling than doing the things you’re good at. Take a look at your week and plan out your projects and time based around those things that you do best. When you do this you’ll begin to see results and get that feeling that you’re making a difference.

Study Best Practices. Sometimes we aren’t motivated because we’re stuck in routine, doing the same things the same ways. Take some time, look around you at some of the industry leaders in your field and study their best practices. This will give you fresh ideas which will lead to fresh motivation.

Get away. Sometimes a simple change of scenery can give you a whole new perspective. Schedule some time to get away to your favorite think spot or vacation spot. Build in some think time and see what happens, it’s likely this time of mediation will lead to some inspiration.

Put Your Goals in Writing. Schedule an hour where you can think through what God might want you to accomplish over the next six months. Pray it through, think it through, talk it through, then write it down. I find that every time I put my goals in writing in sparks a new fire in my heart.

Okay, there are 6 ideas to get you going. What else would you add to this list?

What are You Sacrificing for the Gospel? (pt 3)

One of the most important questions a workaholic pastor can ask himself is: What am I sacrificing for the Gospel?  As I’ve pointed out this past week God never asks us to sacrifice our health or our marriage.  But when we confuse busyness for sacrifice we excuse our illegitimate behaviors as the pursuit of Kingdom impact.  In reality these behaviors are evidence of pride and a deficient view of God. I’ll never forget driving down the road when my kids where younger and one of my sons said, “Dad I hate you being a pastor”.  When I asked why he spoke of my ever constant distraction with serving “my church”.  While I never would have said it out load, my behavior screamed that “God needs me in order to accomplish His work in my community.”  That’s pride. That’s a low view of God. And that’s an attitude that leads pastors down a dangerous path. An over pre-occupation with ministry communicates to our children that our relationship with “our church” is a greater priority than our relationship with them.

#3 God doesn’t ask us to sacrifice our family. Many pastors, especially church planters, have children who are in the formative years of life. Right after Cindy and I announced that we were going to plant a church back in 1997 I heard a well-known pastor exclaim, “If you have young children DO NOT plant a church!” That terrified us, but it was too late, the journey had begun and the calling was too obvious.  So right then and there we decided that our kids would be better because of ministry.  To be honest it was difficult.  The demands of planting were high.  But we worked hard to have special time with our kids, show them the benefits of being in ministry and include them in the God-moments along our ministry journey. Ministry can be a great classroom where our children have a front row seat to witness the provision and power of God. But ministry can also be a pre-occupation that causes us to put parenting on autopilot.

Self-Evaluation: Am I sacrificing my family because of my pre-occupation with ministry?