Monday, September 29, 2014

Break Out of the Mundane and Into the Miraculous

break out wall
Do you ever get tired of where you are at? I'm not necessarily talking about your job or the house you live in. I'm talking about the spiritual rhythm of your daily life. Do you ever feel like there is something more waiting for you just over the horizon but aren't sure how to get there?

If you are going to break out of the mundane rhythm of your life and step into something much bigger you have to take a step of faith. You will have to step out of where you are now and step into where you need to be. Don't wait for God to open the door or map out the road for you. Step out and he will open up the way for you.

Joshua faced this same challenge after the death of Moses. God was calling Joshua to finally lead the Israelites across the Jordan River into the Promised Land. God also encouraged Joshua to be strong and courageous and remember that he would be with him every step to of the way. As they stepped into the Jordan the waters parted before them and they entered into a totally new way of life.

That is the key for you and I. If we are going to break out of the mundane and begin to experience the miraculous we have to step into the water in faith. We can't afford to let fear hold us back and rob us of realizing God's future for us.

You can stay where you are if you want, but as long as you do you will miss out on a miraculous future God has waiting for you. So go ahead. Take that first step. God is waiting for you! Watch this video of a song by Chris Tomlin titled, Whom Shall I Fear (God of Angel Armies). It will bless you and give you courage.

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Friday, September 19, 2014

Is It A Leader's Job To Remove Obstacles?

The answer, in my opinion, is yes and no. I have seen some recent buzz on social media about this subject and that got me thinking. First of all, I do believe it is your responsibility as a leader to remove obstacles for your employees if you have created them. One of your priorities as a leader is to free people up to do their job well. If your leadership is creating obstacles then you are responsible for the results of those under your leadership. With that in mind, let me now share why I believe it is NOT your job to remove obstacles.

I have worked for leaders who had the mindset that it is their job to remove every obstacle possible from the path of their employees. While that sounds like a noble practice, it actually works against success. There are four major reasons why removing obstacles is bad leadership.

#1 - It sabotages personal growth.
Without obstacles people will never learn how to solve problems on their own. Obstacles present opportunities for growth, develop flexibility, and build confidence. The old adage, "No pain, no gain" is true and it certainly applies to our work. A leader who removes obstacles ends up with a weak team.

#2 - It kills motivation and creativity.
The greatest way to develop motivation and creativity in your team is to give them a challenge. A mentor of mine taught me that when given a challenge, people will rise to the occasion. Nothing kills motivation and creativity faster than a lack of challenge. Removing obstacles will create boredom and lead your team to believe that they have nothing to offer.

#3 - It creates resentment.
Leaders who remove obstacles are motivated by the belief that they are the only ones who can do things the right way so they do it themselves. They have a hard time letting go of responsibility and trusting others to do their job. They forget that they simply can't do everything (don't forget that's why you hired your team in the first place!), and they eventually make huge mistakes only to blame everyone but themselves. This breeds resentment and anger and leads to a high turn-over rate.

#4 - It diminishes the strengths of others.
When you remove obstacles for others you send the message that you they are incapable of doing their job. It also tells them that you don't need them, or worse, don't want them. This is just plain dumb leadership. This is like a mechanic who has a shop full of the best tools yet chooses to repair an engine with his bare hands. He won't get very far. No one would think of doing such a stupid thing yet so many leaders do the same thing with their employees everyday and wonder why they fail. Leaders who remove obstacles subject themselves to their own limited resources rather than the unlimited resources of those around them.

I have worked for leaders over the years who have made these four mistakes so I can tell you from experience that these principles are true. I have also worked for leaders who instead of removing obstacles, mentored people in the process of overcoming obstacles as they did their jobs. These leaders had a low turn-over rate, enjoyed high levels of employee engagement and motivation, and produced consistent success. I can also tell you that it was a joy to serve under their leadership and they taught me invaluable lessons not only about leadership, but about life itself.

What do you think? Have you been guilty of being an obstacle remover? Have you worked for an obstacle remover yourself? I'd love to hear about your experience.
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Monday, September 8, 2014

4 Mindsets That Are Sabotaging Your Marriage

angy couple
In four weeks my wife and I will celebrate our 28th wedding anniversary. I must say that I am no expert on marriage. I have read countless books on marriage, attended marriage seminars, and have even counseled couples as a pastor, yet I still have much to learn. One common mindset I find when talking to couples who have been married for 50 years or more is that even after 50 years, they are still learning. Once we think we have learned everything we are headed for big trouble.

Over the last 28 years I have made a lot of mistakes. Some of the most powerful learning experiences come from failure, whether our own or from others around us. The following principles come from much of what I have learned from my own mistakes. My hope is that someone who is struggling in their marriage will find this helpful.

#1 - Marriage is a 50/50 relationship.
If you believe this to be true I can tell you that your relationship is doomed from the start. The minute one partner gives less than 50% the other will feel cheated and will fight for their rightful share. This is not healthy and does not work. When you said your marriage vows you promised to give your spouse everything, not 50%. A successful marriage is one where each partner gives themselves sacrificially and never keeps score. The focus is on what I can give, not what I can get.

#2 - There is only one right way to do things.
This mindset assumes that one of you has to be right all the time. This sets the relationship up for massive conflict and will shift your focus from the problem onto each other. When facing problems don't try to find out who is right and who is wrong. Instead, find a solution and then work together to solve the problem as a team. Once you step in the trap of having to be right you not only hurt yourself, you hurt your partner too.

#3 - Don't go to bed angry.
Before you hit the delete button, hear me out. This mindset is based on a misinterpretation of Ephesians 4:26 that says, "Do not let the sun go down on your wrath." This is not what this verse means. When you read the entire verse you will notice that Paul makes a distinction between anger and wrath. Anger has to do with our emotions while wrath has to do with our actions. What Paul is saying is that we need to correct our behavior before the day is done. To not do so is to sin. He never said it is a sin to be angry. I have learned from experience that thinking every conflict must be resolved today is not healthy. Sometimes the best way to resolve conflict is to sleep on it so that you can deal with it without the emotion of the moment. Many times you will wake up and have completely forgotten you were angry. Your anger is your sole responsibility, never your spouse's.

#4 - I have a right to be happy.
This is simply not true. Your happiness is your sole responsibility. We have an unhealthy addiction to happiness. I can tell you that if you spend your time and energy pursuing happiness you will only end up being miserable. Contentment is the better and more reasonable goal. 1 Timothy 6:6 says that godliness with contentment is great gain. Happiness is dependent upon how we feel which changes with our circumstances. Contentment is dependent upon the truth which remains constant regardless of our circumstances. When you pursue contentment your relationship will stand the test of time. When you pursue happiness your relationship will fall apart the moment you run into difficult circumstances.

If I could sum up everything I have just said I would say it this way - Marriage is not about me. It's about us. Marriage is not easy but regardless of what statistics tell us, in spite of your family history, and in spite of your own past, you can have a marriage that is both rewarding and lasts a lifetime. However, you have to be intentional about it everyday and be willing to work hard at it. Follow the example of how Christ lived in laying down his life for us and I guarantee your marriage will be successful.
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Saturday, August 30, 2014

Integrity vs. Character - What I Do vs. Who I Am

two paths
Integrity is a good thing. The Promise Keepers movement over the years can be credited for challenging a generation of men to pursue integrity in the way they live. That has had a profound effect on our culture. The problem is that integrity is not the goal, character is. Someone who has integrity does not necessarily have character. On the other hand, a person of character will always have integrity. It is important to understand the difference between the two because if we don't, we get things backwards.

Integrity has to do with what or how I do things. Integrity literally means to have excellence in what or how you do things. There are millions of people all over the world who are excellent in what they do and even do good things. But that has nothing to do with character. Character has to do with who I am. Character literally means holiness. A person of character is a person who not only lives right in front of other people, but lives right when no one else is looking. Integrity focuses on the outward appearance. It believes that what I do determines who I am. This is nothing short of faith based on works. Character focuses on the inward condition of the heart. It believes that who I am determines how I do things. This is faith based on grace.

Are you beginning to see the difference? I am not advocating that we stop pursuing integrity. I am merely pointing out that if we pursue character, integrity will be a natural byproduct of the way we live. Simply stated, if I am a man of character then I will naturally be a man of integrity. I tried for so many years to do all the right things for God hoping that would make me acceptable to Him. Then I discovered that God isn't interested in the work of my hands. He just wants my heart! That changed everything. 1 Samuel 15:22 tell us that to obey is better than sacrifice. Obedience has to do with character and sacrifice has to do with integrity. You see, without obedience, sacrifice is meaningless.

Do you focus on doing the right things or on being the right person God wants you to be? If it is the former then your relationship with God is based on works. I challenge you to live a life focused on who you are so that everything you do naturally honors God.
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Thursday, August 28, 2014

God's Prescription For Anxiety

prescription pad
All of us deal with anxiety to some extent. Some more than others. It is difficult not to be anxious, especially in today's fast-paced culture that expects more of us than ever before. To think that we can create a worry-free life is naive, but God has given us a powerful tool to help us deal with anxiety and find true joy even in the midst of adversity and trials. Philippians 4:4-9 gives us six steps to overcome anxiety.

Step #1—Rejoice in the Lord always.
To rejoice means to be exceedingly glad. The emphasis is not on finding joy in what is happening or has happened, but in what God is doing and will do. To rejoice in the Lord always does not mean to be happy, but to find joy in God's future provision.

Step #2— Let your gentleness be evident to all.
The encouragement is to strive to respond in gentleness in the midst of difficult circumstances. It is hard to be gentle when you are stressed. What helps is to focus on what God is doing, not on what is happening. Don't forget that Paul tells us the Lord is near and ever-present. Therefore, you don't have to worry.

Step #3—Do not be anxious about anything.
This does mean not to worry, but it means so much more. It actually means not to fall into the trap of looking out for or promoting your own interests; don't try to make things work out for your best; avoid self-reliance. Let God be your sole source of provision. Make your requests known to Him and He will take care of it for you. Worry sets in when I doubt God's ability to act on my behalf. Peace sets in when I trust that He will even when I don't see it.

Step #4—Accept God’s gift of peace.
The word peace means rest and safety. It literally means exemption from the rage and havoc of war. This step is the result of following the first threerejoicing in the Lord, being gentle, and not being anxious. Steps one, two, three and six are steps we take toward God. Steps four and five are steps God takes towards us in response.

Step #5—Accept God’s gift of safety.
This is the second step that God takes towards us. Paul says, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (NIV) The word guard literally means to protect by military guard; to prevent hostile invasion. He will keep the enemy from penetrating your heart and your mind. This will bring a peace that doesn't make sense. You can hear the bombs going off around you, but for some strange reason, you aren't worried and you sleep like a baby.

Step #6—Meditate on God’s Word.
It is imperative that I train my mind to keep going back to the truth; what is right and lovely, not ugly; what is good, not what is bad. To think on means to decide; agree with; to focus on facts, not suppositions. Do this and the God of Peace will be with you. He won't just send us peace. He himself, the God who is Peace, will come along side us! What a powerful promise. I want more than just peace. I want the Peace-Maker.

When you are feeling a little anxious, follow these simple steps that will lead you to peace and safety. Remember that you have a choice. You can either be a victim of your circumstances, or you can take action and through Christ, be a victor in the midst of your circumstances.

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