Who Are You Trying to Please?

(From Self-consciousness to God-consciousness)

1978cadillaceldoradoAt the time, it was a new luxury car.  It was a car that I could only dream of owning.  The owner was a wealthy man in our small church. I was a newly married, young preacher.  That morning, as I walked out of our church building, I could see him already sitting behind the wheel of his parked car, puffing on a big cigar.

As I walked by his car, I waved to him.  His window slowly came down.  He glared at me and sternly said, “Let’s don’t talk about race anymore!”

That morning I had preached a sermon and at some point had said something about race and the way we treat one another.  As I recall, I spoke regarding the way we as Christians are called to treat others, regardless of ethnic group.

Apparently this man did not like what I said.  This was a new experience for me.  I had never had someone immediately snap at me like this regarding what was just said in a sermon.   I responded by saying something like, “I was just applying the message of the text that I was preaching this morning.”

I thought about his remark throughout the day.  I knew he was used to having his way.  I also knew that he gave more money on Sunday morning than anyone else and that our small church was impacted by his gift.  I reflected on what I had said in the sermon and genuinely believed that what I said was appropriate.

On one level his comment was about race but it actually was about much more.  His comment forced me to reflect on why I preached and why I did any kind of ministry in the first place.

Monday Start: Resources for the Week

start3Why seminary?

Steve Norman has written a very fine post on some of the benefits of seminary.  Working with Harding School of Theology, I obviously believe there are great benefits that one can receive at a seminary.  See 4 Surprising Benefits of Seminary.

For your brain

These two articles deal with the kind of food that might enhance the brain.  See 7 Back to School Breakfasts that Boost Brain Power and Researchers Find 8 Superfoods That Drastically Boost Your Brainpower At Work.


Bill George, a Senior Fellow at Harvard Business School has written a good article entitled Self Awareness: Key to Sustainable Leadership (Huffington Post).

Being with people in grief and loss

Maria Popova has written a great piece in Brain Pickings.  See Barbara Walters on How to Be There for the Newly Bereaved and Brokenhearted.  (Maria Popova often writes thoughtful and useful posts that are helpful and interesting.)

American Culture

Terry Rush has written a post entitled Anti-Religion is a Religion.  Worth reading.

Public speaking and preachers

Don’t miss this fine post.  Volume and the Public Speaker: Be Heard and Be Effective.  This post contains important reminders to anyone who does public speaking.

Marriage and the dangerous question

See this post by one of my favorite writers, Gary Thomas —  The Question That Can Destroy Your Marriage.



5 Attributes of Wise Leaders

diceWise leaders understand that life and ministry is a long game.  Far too many church leaders act as if real ministry began once they came on the scene.  It almost sounds like what the congregation may have been doing for many years long before the present leaders showed up is not as legitimate as what is being done today. Wise ministers know that God has been working long before they arrived and will continue to work in that congregation long after they are gone.

Wise leaders never stop growing in character.  For example, a minister preaches/leads/teaches out of a transformed life.  As Ruth Haley Barton has said:

What would it look like for me to lead more consistently from my soul — the place of my own encounter with God — rather than leading primarily from my head, my unbridled activism, or my performance-oriented drivenness? (Ruth Haley Barton, Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership, p. 25)

When Ministers Lose Their Focus

woody-selfieMost ministers who I know are good people.  In fact, some of the best people I know serve as ministers in churches.  Many preach and some serve in other roles.

Ministers have the opportunity to influence other ministers as well as the elders of the congregation by what they model in their professional life as well as in their private life.

Some ministers are overly concerned with their visibility and their status among others instead of focusing on their character.

As a result, some ministers become preoccupied with things that just don’t matter that much. Some may keep score.  “They asked him to keynote a lecture at Pepperdine again!”  Or, maybe you see that your friend is preaching at a number of churches over the next few months and you can’t believe they asked this person instead of you.  Or, you find yourself checking to see how many Twitter followers that a certain preacher has or how many Facebook friends this person has. 

When the forming of our character is ignored, it may show up privately, publicly or both.  Privately, one may begin to harbor grudges, resentment, and hatred for others.  Or, you may begin to make poor personal choices and give yourself the license to follow your lusts.  Quite often this means opening the door to pornography.  Once that door is open, it is often quite difficult to ever get it closed again.

When we ignore the building of our character, it may show up publicly, perhaps in the way we do ministry.  We may lie about the attendance at our church.  We may exaggerate the good things that happen at our church.  Many ministers take short-cuts. Some plagiarize sermons while others practice manipulation and dishonesty with the elders or a congregation. 

Do You Ever Wish You Could Have a Do-Over?


Do you ever wish you could have a do-over?

As a teenager, I used to play golf frequently at Tenison Golf Course in Dallas.  One of the first times I ever played, I hit a terrible drive off the tee.   Someone said, “Take a mulligan.”  I learned that “mulligan” was just another word for “do-over.”

There is nothing like a do-over.  Grace through Jesus is the ultimate do-over.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.  (Ephesians 2:8-9)

A do-over is what so many of us want.

The parents who are broken hearted over the lifestyle of their teenage son or daughter.

The father whose son witnessed his unholy lifestyle and now, years later, the son is imitating the father.

The business person who in a moment of panic chose to be dishonest on his taxes.

The young man who wishes he had never looked at his first pornographic website.

For many years I have been listening to stories.  One man sat in my office and stared at the floor. He looked awful.  I suspect he had not slept all night.

“I need to tell you something.”

3 Questions that Can Change Your Life – Really

3questionsAre you grappling with important questions?

Some people are preoccupied with their image.  (How do I look?)

Some are preoccupied with their success.  (How can I win?)

Others, however, have discovered that one’s life can really change for the good when you deal with some very important questions.

  1. The question of character.  What is the most important thing in life to you?
  2. The question of legacy.  What do you want to be known for at the end of your life?
  3. The question of the present.  At this stage in your journey, what do you need to learn next?

(Thanks to Walter Wright for these three questions found in Mentoring, pp. 2-3.)

Some of us consider such questions but seem to think our thoughts are enough.  Consequently, while we may say what we believe to the the most important thing in life, our actions do not reflect such values.  Or, we may tell others what we want to be known for at the end our our life but them allow our compulsive desires to determine what we do.

Dealing with these questions are game-changers!

When Your Problem is Overwhelming

138173-424x283-TroubledTeenShe sat in my office staring at the floor.  I’ve seen that look so many times on the faces of men and women who have experienced hurt.

Sometimes, life is really hard.

You may feel hurt, disappointed, and empty.

You may feel numb.

Whatever the reason, there comes a point when you need to hear once again a word of hope.

I love Psalm 73.  In fact, it may be one of my favorite Psalms.  The Psalm speaks of a person who says that his “feet had almost slipped.”  He became so discouraged after seeing the unfairness and pain that exists in the world.  He saw the “prosperity of the wicked” (73:3).  It seemed as if they had no struggles, burdens or the common human ills (73:4-5). They were a prideful and arrogant people (73:6-8).  The world was not working right and it was very discouraging to this writer.  He felt as if his faith was all for nothing (73:13)

However all of this changed later and he came away from the sanctuary very encouraged.

Before You Ask for Advice



A young father goes to the doctor.  He has been experiencing some discomfort in his shoulder.  His physician recommends that he see a physical therapist.  The doctor’s concern is that if the man doesn’t begin to work through the stiffness and pain in his body, his mobility will be even more limited than it is now.

The young father goes to work the next day.  Someone at work tells him that the discomfort is no big deal and will work itself out.  The colleague went on to tell his friend that he didn’t need to bother with physical therapy.  Unfortunately, the young father chose to listen to the friend at work instead of the doctor.  Sure enough, his mobility is now even more limited.

A single mother is having car trouble.  Her next door neighbor is a mechanic at a local car dealership.  He encouraged her to take her car to a mechanic as soon as possible.  He was concerned about the condition of her brakes.  Meanwhile, a guy at work said that this was probably no big deal and the repair could wait until her payday next week.  She listened to her coworker rather than the mechanic.  Unfortunately, that weekend her brakes went out totally as she attempted to stop at a traffic light at a busy intersection.

Do we listen to the people who have the knowledge, experience, and wisdom to give the best counsel?  Or, do we instead follow someone else’s emotional reaction or their advice based on the anecdotal experience of a second cousin?

What People Who Live Well Do Differently

livewellWhat do people who live well do differently?  What do the people who finish well do that others don’t seem to do? What do men and women do that so many others seem to ignore or pay little attention to?

People who live well live in the present instead of the past.  Yes, they may have had hard times in the past but they learn to move on.   They may have experienced recent successes but they don’t keep reminding others of the way life used to be for them.  People who live well learn to lean into the future while they learn to navigate the present.

People who live well don’t keep making the same mistakes that have derailed so many other people.  Satan would like for us to believe that we can play with fire and somehow everything will be all right. 

  • A young married woman is paying a lot of attention to a male co-worker who is single.  She reminds herself that she has done nothing wrong and she is just enjoying the mutual attraction.
  • A college student roams through porn sites nightly.  He tells himself that he is really not a bad person and no one is getting hurt.
  • A woman in her 40s has been taking office supplies from her work and bringing them home.  She tells herself that the company has other areas of waste and they sure won’t miss a few items.

People who live well learn from the mistakes of others.

Street Smarts for Church Leaders

6794440-free-street-wallpaper1.  In many church buildings, there is a designated meeting room for key leaders in the congregation. In some churches, this will be the meeting room or conference room where the elders/ministers meet. In other churches this may be where the ministry team or the ministry staff meets. Early one morning, a minister was walking by himself through the church building. He happened to step into the meeting room where he had met with his elder group on many occasions through the years. As he entered that empty room and turned on the light, he was startled by what came out of his mouth.

“I hate this room.”

He thought about what he had just said. He knew why he had said this. This room was filled with so many unpleasant memories for him. As he thought about this room and his experiences, the feeling was depressing and sad. How sad! Yet, I have had enough conversations with ministers and elders to know that too many feel this way. The memories of many of those meetings are often not good.

Why are we not intentional about building better memories of time spent together as key leaders?

Why do we not build better memories of dreaming together and considering ways to participate in God’s kingdom?

Why are these gatherings not more about sharing stories of what God has done in our church and community?

Why not build memories of key leaders coming together to point out the good in one another and to encourage one another? I raise these questions because I really think ministers/elders could be much more intentional about building this kind of environment.

2. Periodically, I spend some time reflecting on my life and the state of my overall being. In particular, I am looking for gaps or perhaps a signal that something is being neglected. For example, I know ministers who are very disciplined readers but completely ignore their bodies. While they develop their minds, they get no exercise and have a poor diet. Some of these same people are very serious about what they read but then will laugh about neglecting their bodies.

I reflect on the various dimensions of my life and consider what I might be neglecting. Am I neglecting the development of my mind? Am I neglecting key relationships? Am I neglecting my emotions? This kind of self-reflection has been very important to me.

3. In ministry, trust is EVERYTHING. If you are with a congregation for any length of time, people will come to know you. They will know if you are trustworthy. They will know whether you tend to reveal what others have told you in confidence. They will know whether or not you are safe. They will know whether or not you really care. They will know.