Tuesday, May 26, 2009

We Will Remember

So yesterday we celebrated Memorial Day across our great nation. Some gathered with family and friends, had cookouts, played in golf tourneys, decorated graves, went to the lake and many other activities but what exactly did we remember? As I sat at a late lunch with my sweetheart, the TV's were tuned to a NASCAR race and I watched as the race was stopped at 3pm to remember the fallen hero's of our country as well as some of the driver and crews family who had given everything for the cause of freedom. Some pictures began to flash on the screen along with names. The photographs contained men and women in uniform, some smiling and some somber but all proud to wear the red white and blue. I began to cry, and yes partly because I am a big baby but also because it moved me. There I sat in a restaurant with strangers looking at pictures of people I did not know nor would ever meet but was touched to think of how they were willing to give everything so I could be sitting there. The call was un-mistakable, the sacrifice was great, and the soldier was willing! Praise be to God that those who came before us were bold and courageous enough to stand tall and report for duty! As a christian, I pray we would always remember and support our military and pray for their safety and safe return. Find a veteran or soldier in uniform and say thank you! If you see a soldier out eating, secretly pick up the check. God has blessed us to live here, but just as the freedom we have in Christ did not come without blood, so the American freedom came by the same currency. Truly God has shed His grace on us!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Ponder the path

Sometimes there are ideas and principals that are so obvious that we fail to recognize them or even heed the advice and direction that they give. In the book, “The Principal of The Path”, such a principal is found. The thought is very simple yet profound, and one which we realize all too late in life most times. Basically the principal can be summed up in this statement, “Whatever path you are on, will lead you somewhere, and it might not be where you want to go.”
Of all places to find wisdom, Andy Stanley takes up to King Solomon himself, the wisest King to ever live or rule. Solomon tells us that we should observe where we are because it can tell us where we are going. How much simpler could it get? If we will take the time to first of all, examine our current path, what we are giving energy to and spending resources on, we may be able to see what the ending will be like. There have been many times that when all is said and done we look back and think, “If I had only seen this coming”, but the truth is there are times that we could have. If we had only taken the time to look around, check a map, or ask somebody who has been where we are, then some circumstances could be avoided. I have reflected on several things in not only my personal life path, but my ministry path as well. Looking back from this point, I see why I am where I am and how I could have been somewhere different, but I have also found some great insight in the book that will help me get to where I feel like God wants me to be. One thing, that Stanley and King Solomon hammers home is the concept of wise counsel from wise people. Too many times we ask the wrong people for advice and direction who may be good friends and confidants, are not “wise” on the issue that we seek input about. The bible makes it clear that the best counsel comes from those who have “been there and done that”, not those who have a fresh view or promise a “new perspective”. Rehoboam learned this the hard way when he rejected the counsel of the elder statesmen and went with the direction given by those the bible says “he grew up with”. The path we are on can be navigated no matter how young we are, however we must use those around us who know how to navigate the path and have already been that way before. Another point that stuck out to me is the story you tell while on your path, will make a great impact! No matter what path you are on, there will be a story about the journey can be as important as your arrival. I have heard Johnny Hunt mention over and over that he prays that he will “finish well”, and oh how we should all desire that, but some of us will never finish well if we don’t change the path we are on. We find ourselves making the same mistakes over and over, but we are not willing to change paths, and eventually the sympathy that people feel for us as we fall the first couple of times will turn to apathy because they can see that we are headed for a dead end, if we don’t change paths. The last thing from this great book I would like to discuss is the art of paying attention and not being distracted. When we are on the path, there will be many distractions and “side shows” to grab our attention but if we are to finish the path, it’s a good idea to stay focused. Stanley uses the analogy of a driver that stares at something to his right or left while driving, will veer toward it. The same holds true for us as we walk the path we are on. Whatever captures our attention will cause us to steer toward it, and sometimes that can be dangerous and sometimes fatal. Once again, King Solomon shares a story about the young man who was dealing with a questionable woman who, even though the young man couldn’t see, was standing at the doorway that led to destruction. The young mans attention was captured and his path was re- routed. But what if our focus and attention was set on Christ and we steered our path in His direction?
In conclusion, this book was a great read and recommended to all church staff, leaders, even business folks. I challenge you as you read this, look at the path you are on and ask yourself “where am I going to end up if I continue doing this job” , “making these decisions”, “treating my spouse this way”, “giving God this amount of time”, “pleasing people”, “working here” or whatever would fit your situation. Once you have assessed your life, then make some decisions about changing your path and remember, don’t do it alone, seek “wise” counsel, get directions, keep an eye on the story line, and pay attention!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Great Commision

If you look online, or even in many publications in Southern Baptist life, you can't miss the fact that there is something on the horizon that promises to be as big if not larger than the "Conservative Resurgence" that our mentors helped to bring about in the late 70's and early 80's. It is something that I believe to be very important and long over due. This is something that will change not only the face of the SBC but possibly the landscape of our nation. What is this great thing I am talking about? A Great Commission Resurgence! A call to start fulfilling the calling God has given all Christians, and share our faith. Giving resources, time, energy and anything else that we can in spreading the gospel. To re-focus our giving and structure toward making a lasting difference for the Lord Jesus! We have become so proud that we "give to the co-operative program" and we give to "missions" and we give to the "association", but what happened to us giving ourselves to the Lord and "going" and not just "giving". In my 12 years of ministry, I have been able to work with hundreds of churches of all sizes, denominations and races, and one thing is true across the board; the great commission is void in our actions and mission of the local church. Oh sure, the "mission statement" that most churches have over the door is to "be a great commission church" but when asked what that means, the only answer is "we give money to the association to send out missionaries." Another popular answer is " we are part of the SBC". There was even one church leader that once told me, that the only reason that his church gave to the association or convention was so his Pastor and other staff could be leaders in the denomination. Another pastor, admitted that his church only gave because the annuity was so good. When did we replace our redeemer with recognition and retirement? At what point did we become so concerned with being on committees than being committed to serving others and the Lord? It seems that we have become obsessed with the business of the church, but sadly the tasks that we are trying to accomplish have no eternal perspective and fails miserably at being the church that Christ died for. My prayer is not that a great war is waged or even that we find a great leader and follow them, but the cry of my heart is, to follow the leader we already have in Christ, and lets do what we were commanded to do in the first place! It has been said that we won the battle for the bible, and I am thankful for those who fought the fight and stood strong, but if you are not going to obey the words of the bible, what did we really win? It is time! Today! Share your faith, preach and sing the gospel! Ask yourself the question, "What are the results of what I am doing for the Kingdom?" "Could this money be used better for the Kingdom?" Take some resources and pour them into serving your community or neighbor, sharing the gospel through your own church, and see if God will not bless it! It will take courage, and action, but one thing is for sure, if you will take action, God will give you the courage to follow through! And when we act, that is living a lifestyle of worship!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Practice makes perfect, but who needs perfection.

It is said that practice makes perfect, and many people hold to this idea. Please don't think I am discounting the discipline of practice, but sometimes I think we expect a monumental outcome. I do believe that practice is needed and a very important part of any worship ministry or any other talent or ministry, but to use the statement that guarantees perfection, is a stretch. I think many times we spend more time trying to be perfect in our worship practices than actually preparing for worship. How many of us actually practice our worship? There should be some un-rest if we spend more time preparing the stage, than the heart of the platform personalities. We should practice spending time in God's word, seeking God's face and listening to His voice. I mean actually living out our christian walks day after day, trying to give God our all! There is also something to be said for the actual physical side of ministry. I say that we should spend many hours in practice and preparation because while perfection may not happen with practice, our best will. I think it was said well by former basketball star Ed Macauley "Just remember that if you are not working at your game to the best of your ability there will be somebody out there with just as much talent as you, that will be working to the best of their ability, and they will out preform you!" In ministry, as well as life, lets put our time and energy into practice as much as possible, so that when the time comes to actually lead worship, play our instrument, or just shine for Christ, we will be at our best for Christ, that is humanly possible!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Talent in Worship

When you think of talent, most times you think of success and unconditional greatness. However in John Maxwell’s book, “Talent Is Never Enough”, we find that talent is a great treasure to posses but it is only the beginning of a successful life or profession. There are far more attributes that we should posses and build on, that will cause us to be a “talent plus person”. When individuals fail to see that talent is not enough, they fail miserably at most things in life. As I read this great book by Maxwell, there are several things I observed.
In life, we find that one thing, sport or profession that we are comfortable in or excel at and we consider that talent. Most times we think that practice is not needed, focus is not required and working with others only gets in the way. We tell ourselves that we are good enough and initiative, preparation and perseverance are not needed, but only talent. There are others that we see around us at times and think that they are the most talented people we have ever met, and that must be what has propelled them to greatness. But if talent is all that they posses or all they depend on, the notoriety and fame they may seem to have will be short lived, and crumble at the same pace as it was attained. Maxwell suggests that ingredients such as Teamwork, character, preparation and passion are necessary to multiply, protect position and energize your talent, and I have found that he is correct. As I reflect back on these leadership laws and proverbs, the resounding call to consistently learn is clear. When we fail to do right, we fail to protect our talent. When we fail to prepare, we fail to position our talent and when we fail to learn we fail to grow our talent. Through reading this retrospective book, I am reminded that talent is awesome when used in the correct parameters and conduits that these other characteristics provide. So many routine things in day to day life such as relationships, are overlooked and brushed aside for the purpose of relying too much on what we at times think too highly of, our own talent. We overlook teamwork, so the glory of success is ours alone. We overlook practice because we already feel that we are good enough, when the result proves us otherwise. We try and play the victim, yet we are actually the facilitator of our own demise, all because we stopped becoming better, thinking we were satisfied where we were.
There is more than reading this book to discover that there are so many more ways to enable your personal growth but you must take chapters three and eight to heart and muster the courage to place initiative in growing in whatever area your core values and passion will drive you. Having the knowledge and putting it into practice are two different things. Sometimes, I think we know but we fail to act, causing us to become like a new car and losing our value after we drive off the lot of comfort. What is it that cause so many of us to decide that we are through or burn out earlier in life than what we dreamed? I think the answer is simple, yet hard to admit, dependency! What do we depend on so much that could hurt us or slow us down? Talent! There are times we don’t even realize the enormity of the impact we could have in our profession, church, or life because we are so focused on the parts we can see, instead of developing the potential that you can’t. There is a great quote in the book that bears repeating, “Some people are like an ice berg; you only see the top 15% but what you cant see underneath the water is so much bigger”. We don’t take the time to master ourselves but instead we allow circumstances and even our abilities master us. One story that caught my attention was the tale of the great golfer Bob Jones. Jones had problems with his temper, and was even known to throw clubs on occasion. Obviously his character was scared and known throughout his social circles, yet so was his talent. He was advised several times through his teen years to take charge of his temper, or he would never succeed at the game he was gifted to play. Jones, relied heavily on his gift until one day it sunk in. With perseverance and focus, he eventually broke his temper and became known as one of the best professional golfers not to mention one with great character. One English scholar remarked of Bob Jones, “Bob was fourteen when he mastered the game of golf but he was twenty one when he mastered himself.”
Coming to the conclusion that one’s talent is not enough is sometimes a long process. It does not happen overnight, and sometimes needs prodding, but when reality is clear, and you find that you must make some changes, then talent is not seen as the only virtue but only a building block, on which God wants to build and grow you for His kingdom and glory. When talent stands alone, without any other stones, then that is how your life will stay…incomplete!