Look Up From Your Phone

My wife sent me the below video this past weekend. It was so powerful (and convicting) I thought I’d share it with my readers. Christian leaders are not immune to the pull of social media, tv, internet and more. ‘Screen time’ as we call it at home is slowly taking over. I’m getting sucked in as easily as many others. I fear what this habit might be doing to my family, my ministry and, most importantly, my walk with God. I so appreciate this reminder to look up and be with those I care about most.

How about you? 

(disclaimer: There is one word in the video some may find offensive. Although the video may not be filmed with the christian audience in mind, the message still stands for all who will hear it. Enjoy.)

 

Can’t see this video? Try clicking here.

 

Reading Between the Lines of Excellence

excellence
Very few believers I know would question this statement, “God wants us to do our best.” I believe it’s true. Our best is a valued currency in God’s kingdom. He excels at bridging the gap between our best and His best. All it takes is a few moments of reflection to realize how God has given His best for us. From creation to the cross and beyond, we see God’s character shine. He has never once given less than His all for us. That would be contrary to His very nature. His call to the believer is nothing less. Jesus even went so far as to tell us that we should deny ourselves, and take up our cross, like Him, daily.
 

Years ago I remember walking by a local pizza shop. There was a promotional sign in the window that boldly proclaimed their pizza was, “Good Enough”. Not very inspiring. Unfortunately, it’s very easy for us to slide into a ‘good enough’ mentality in our ministries. ‘Good Enough’ sneaks up on us. It begins with one small task or event and slowly creeps into more and more of what we do until we, one day, discover that our ministry is defined by those words: good enough.

Between the Lines
For anyone willing to think it through, there are some unspoken things we are saying when we choose to set ‘good enough’ aside and settle for nothing less than our best. Your excellence (or your mediocrity) is communicating several things, between the lines. Here are a few.

  • Our best says we trust God.
    I believe it takes a lot of faith to give our best. The fact is, often we know in our hearts our best won’t be good enough. Most of us are our own worst critic. It can be simpler to give in to the reality that we just don’t always measure up. But when I give my best for Christ, against all the odds and even when I know I fall short, I’m committing my work to God, and trusting Him to do what He does best – breathe His transformative power into it.
  • Our best says we value others.
    Jesus simplified the Christian walk and the whole Bible by declaring that everything hinges on the two greatest commandments, to love God and love others. When we give our best we are fulfilling that high call, not only to serve God, but to serve those He gave His one and only Son for. When we serve with excellence, we are communicating to those who will benefit from our work that they are of great value both to us and to God.
  • Our best says we value our calling.
    Great leaders are secure leaders. They are humbly and intimately aware of their strengths and weaknesses and have become reconciled to their limitations while they lead and serve others. When we choose to give our all, whether for the most menial of tasks or for the big public event, we are accepting God’s calling on our life to be His hands and feet in the world.
  • Our best says it’s important.
    Practically speaking, excellence communicates volumes to those around us about whether what we are doing is truly important or not. Not just whether it’s important to us, but whether it should be important to them as well. If people walk into an event that is only half-baked, there is a nonverbal message saying, “This wasn’t important enough to us to do it right, so you don’t need to treat it as important either.” Similarly, when we bend over backwards to produce excellence at every turn (remember, that means our best, not perfection), then we are letting the world know, “This is important to me, and we want it to be important to you too!”

What other things do you think excellence communicates to those around us?

photo credit: Josh Liba via photopin cc

God’s Standard of Excellence

excellence-paintbrushWhatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Colossians 3:23-24

Years ago I found myself painting the walls in the master bathroom of our home. I’m a decent painter, but it’s not my trade nor is it something I enjoy. That said, I have pretty high standards, so I was very focused on doing a good job. At one point, I found myself laying on my back and reaching way back to the wall under a bottom shelf that was perhaps 18″ inches from the floor. As I was gently brushing the trim under that shelf, I realized I was overdoing it. Nobody in their right mind would ever be looking under this shelf to see if I painted the trim and that back wall properly. They’d need a flashlight to do so, and that was with the lights on in the bathroom.

That’s when the Holy Spirit spoke to me, “Do it for me.”

It was the most meticulously painted wall in the whole room. I found myself in tears while I did it too. It became a love offering to God. It was one of the most powerful worship experiences of my life.

Working for the Lord

According to Colossians, we’re to maintain that standard of excellence in everything we do. That’s not to say that we should spend hours painting the backside of the drywall before we put it up, or check every sentence we write in our emails with the grammar dictionary to ensure it’s perfect, or even to keep our homes or offices meticulously clean at all times. I don’t believe that’s the point.

God isn’t looking for perfection. He is sorely aware of how imperfect we all can be, which of course is why He offered His perfect solution for our imperfection in Jesus Christ.

Rather, I believe God’s standard for excellence is simply our very best with what matters. Of course, we’re talking about ‘what matters’ to God, not ourselves or our earthly masters.

The last sentence of this Scripture states, “It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” It may be my wife who asked me to paint the walls, my boss who is requesting the report, or my pastor asking me to make a few phone calls; but it’s the Lord Christ who I am always serving. His high calling is to serve those around me as if the request came out of His own mouth.

My best is going to look different than yours too. You might be a much better painter than me. God is simply looking for me to give the best I can, with what I have. That includes my skills, my strengths & weaknesses, my experience, my time and my resources. Excellence is less about what others see or think, than it is about what God knows.

After all, nobody would have ever thought the widow gave her best when she put two cents in the offering (Luke 21:1-4). In comparison to others, it wouldn’t have counted as excellent service. Yet, that’s what Jesus Christ said about her. That offering was the one that represented what Colossians is calling each of us to do. To give our best.

I have a confession. I’m not there. I’d love to say I raise my children, help others in need, do my weekly chores and carry out my work responsibilities like I did when I painted that bathroom wall. But I can say that I aspire to that kind of service to and for Christ.

How about you? Do you maintain God’s standard for excellence in your life and ministry?

photo credit: Guillaume Brialon via photopin cc

The Art of Inviting Feedback

feedbackI’m a big fan of feedback. Not the kind you get on Sunday mornings when the microphone goes haywire and everybody goes deaf. The kind you get when people share their thoughts & opinions regarding something you’re trying to do with excellence.

Inviting feedback is a bittersweet activity. But when I swallow my pride and listen closely to other’s thoughts, it increases my effectiveness and impact in ministry.

Yesterday I listened to this two-part podcast from the Andy Stanley Leadership Podcast series entitled, “The Art of Inviting Feedback“. One of the big takeaways was learning how to ask your leaders, co-workers and team-mates this one question:

“If you were me, what would you do differently?”

 I strongly urge you to ask your entire team to listen to these two podcasts. They have the potential to, over time, make a big difference in your ministry’s leadership culture.

The Art of Inviting Feedback – Part 1 (Andy Stanley Leadership Podcast)

The Art of Inviting Feedback – Part 2 (Andy Stanley Leadership Podcast)

photo credit: woodleywonderworks via photopin cc

Indescribable

Grab a drinking straw. Walk outside on a clear starry night. Pick a blank space in the sky (no stars) and look through the straw. What do you see?

Nothing, right. How fun was that?

Enter the image below, which has been coined the ‘Hubble Ultra Deep Field”.

When the experts zoomed in on a similar sized spot with a powerful telescope, what do you think they saw? More stars? Nope. Just 1,000’s of GALAXIES. In fact, the experts tell us this one image boasts somewhere in the neighborhood of 10,000 GALAXIES.

(You need to click on the image and zoom in to really appreciate it!)

ultra-deep-field

I suspect there isn’t a scale we can adequately use to try and imagine the vastness of space and how minuscule we (humanity) really are in comparison with it. We’re overwhelmed just planning a trip to the moon. Another planet in our solar system is just out of reach – perhaps we’ll visit Mars once in my lifetime. The idea of visiting another star is the stuff of sci-fi novels. Exploring a galaxy belongs to Star Wars fans. But millions, perhaps billions of galaxy’s?

Psalm 19:1-4 (NIV) says it best.

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech, night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words, no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the end of the world. In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.

Wow.

 

Credit:

NASAESA, and S. Beckwith (STScI) and the HUDF Team

Don’t Miss Your Life Video

I ran across this great 4 minute video over on epicparent.tv the other day and just had to share it. Powerful and relevant. Hopefully, this doesn’t hit too close to home. Whether it does or not, it would be a great opener to a message on parenting. Enjoy.


If you can’t see this video, try clicking this link.

 
I have to wonder, how many of us are ‘missing our life’ and don’t even travel? God give us the courage to be the men and women of God you’ve called us to be for our kids!

Famous Failures

The people talked about in this video are famous. You probably know every one of them. They were also failures at one time or another. Like you and I, they failed, but their failures didn’t define them, they just refined them. I hope I can one day be added to this list of famous failures! How about you?

If you can’t see this video, try clicking this link.
 
 

Thursday Quote: Leading On Empty

 

Pastoral ministry should be considered a High Risk occupation. Check out some of these startling statistics about pastors from H. B. London Jr.’s work, Pastors at Greater Risk (also quoted in the book mentioned below.)

  • 80% believe pastoral ministry affects their family negatively. 33% of those say it’s an outright hazard to their family.
  • 75% report they’ve had a significant stress-related crisis at least once while pastoring.
  • 50% feel unable to meet the needs of the job.
  • 90% feel inadequately trained to cope with the demands of the job.
  • 80% of pastors say they have insufficient time with their spouse.
  • 56% of pastors’ wives say they have no close friends.
  • 70% of pastors say they do not have someone they consider a close friend.

Perhaps the most disturbing statistic of all is that clergy have the second highest divorce rate among all professionals.
 
Having served in pastoral ministry myself for nearly two decades, I understand some of these pressures and dangers. Today, I hear about or talk with pastors on a weekly basis who are walking through difficult situations, struggling spiritually or are just tired and feel like quitting. Despite it all, they plow through and continue to fulfill the mighty purposes and calling to which God has called them. I am often very proud and inspired to know their individual stories.
 
This is why I strongly recommend every pastor purchase and read Wayne Cordeiro’s book, Leading On Empty. In this powerful book, Wayne shares his own battle through ministry burnout and how ministers can guard themselves to let their candle burn for the long haul. In this excerpt from the book, Wayne shares why it is so difficult for pastors to find the necessary balance between ministry and daily living.

“There will always be a tension between what I do and who I am because they run so closely together. A minister isn’t like a salesman who stops talking business after five o’clock or a dockworker who refuses to pick up a fallen box because he’s off the clock. He doesn’t live in the world of retiring politician, who contents himself with leaving unfinished items for his successor.

A shepherd-leader is more like a country doctor. Regardless of the time of day, when people are experiencing symptoms of appendicitis or when a baby needs birthing, he can’t say, “I’m off duty. I punched out at five.” In a sense, a pastor never punches out. Of course some may, but for those who see their profession as a calling, they simply cannot.

What I do is who I am, and who I am is inextricably connected to what I do. I am a shepherd. It wasn’t something I chose as a business profession. It was something I couldn’t escape!” Page 96

 
 

 

 

 
Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Michael Jordan & Craig Groeschel on Failure

 
Isn’t it interesting that so many of us have an intense fear of failure, and shy away from situations where we might fail, while others embrace failure, learn, and end up doing something great!

Watch these two great clips on failure and be inspired to try, fail, learn, adjust and try again!

If you can’t see this video, try clicking this link.
If you can’t see this video, try clicking this link.
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