The Bully

(Have You Ever Met Him?)

1. He often thinks he is the smartest one in the room.

2. He will try to convince you that you are slow, crazy, not intelligent, etc.

3. If you are female, he may think you are overly emotional, not thinking, always lacking in something.

4. He is always critiquing, keeping score, etc. He must win.

5. He is a saint one moment and unbelievably evil the next. He puts you down. In his mind, he is far, far superior to you.

6. In his mind, It is all about image, not character. It is all about what he perceives people to be thinking of him.

7. He will do anything and say anything if he thinks this will put him at an advantage.

8. The bully is often a charmer. However, once you get past the initial charm, you may see that the bully is actually cold and calculating.

 

The Truth: The bully may be in a church. The bully can be single or married.

The bully often thinks he is smart. The bully may be a legend in his own mind. Meanwhile, once you get past the surface charm, you may see how thin and shallow he really is. At least some of the sexual abuse and assault that we are hearing about now has come from the bullies who have spent years looking out for themselves.

May we raise up young men who see that being a bully is not manly at all. In fact, the bully is an insecure, small boy who may be in a man’s body but who has never grown up. May we raise up a generation of young men who pursue true strength, wisdom, and godly integrity. These are building blocks for character for those who refuse to settle for the small life of the bully.

Beginning a New Year – 2018

Refuse to Waste the Opportunity

I was about 17 years old.  It was New Year’s Eve and I was working.  I was working at an all night fast food hamburger place in Dallas until 3:00 AM.  I resented working that evening.  After all, it seemed that everyone else was with friends or had some place to go.  Here I was on New Year’s Eve working!  I was not happy.

We were very, very busy that evening and into the night.  Just before midnight, two guys (who appeared to be in their late twenties) walked up to the outside window to place their order.  They began to argue over who was first in line.  They both had obviously been drinking and in fact were quite drunk.  They began to fight, hitting one another in the face.  Finally, the police separated them and each, with a bloody face, went away.

Later I thought about that moment.  Here we were, minutes from a New Year and these grown men usher in the year fighting over a place in line at a fast food restaurant.  Wow.

Surely, there are better ways to begin the New Year.  Yet, if we are not careful, we can let a great opportunity slip by.

We can make the same old mistakes, carry out the same destructive habits, and use the same poor judgement in our relationships.

Or, we can begin the New Year thanking God for his grace.

  • We can thank God for his forgiveness for our sins of 2017.
  • We can pray for clarity and self-control regarding our hearts, our actions, and our intentions as we begin 2018.
  • We can ask God to give us the power and strength to overcome bad, destructive habits.
  • We can pray that God will help us to use better judgement in terms of our relationships and friendships in the coming year.  Yes, we can make better choices.

2017 is almost over.  I can do nothing about the actions of others during this year or even my own actions.  The year is over.

As you and I enter the New Year, however, we can get serious about our “next action.”  Start small.  Whatever you face, no matter how seemly small and insignificant, by the grace of God, make the next action one that gives God pleasure.

You and I can start now.

Church Leaders are Called to Behave Better

(Avoiding behaviors that diminish the influence of church leaders)

Sometimes ministers go through difficult seasons.  Sometimes elders go through difficult seasons.  At times it seems that entire congregations go through difficult seasons.

Sometimes a difficult season occurs because of someone’s irresponsibility, incompetence, meanness, manipulation, or thoughtlessness.  Some ministers and some elders have been guilty of all five.

Ministers and elders will make mistakes.  Human beings make mistakes regardless of what role they might find themselves in.

Does a minister or an elder really have to be irresponsible?  When church leaders are irresponsible in what they say or in how they act, they are basically wasting the influence and the energy of the church.

Does a minister or an elder really have to be incompetent?  Church leaders do not have identical gifts or identical strengths.  Yet, if we pretend that we always know what to do, after awhile our incompetencies will become obvious to others.  When we are not learning, growing, or developing, we will never move beyond where we are right now.

Does a minister or an elder really have to be mean?  Of course not.  Yet, so often these people are not held accountable for their meanness.  For example, if an elder says something to a minister in an elder’s meeting that is rude and unkind, what do the other elders do?  In far too many churches, they simply remain silent.   (Yes, an elder close to that minister may call him later and grouse about what his fellow elder said.  However, that elder may never be confronted regarding his behavior.)

Does a minister or an elder really have to be manipulative?  No. Of course, a minister may have several friends who are also in the elder group.  However, this minister has crossed a line when he manipulates several elders behind the scenes to basically do his bidding for him in elders’ meetings.  Ministers who refuse to manipulate know how to relate and love without resorting to self-serving manipulation.

Finally, does a minister or an elder really have to be thoughtless?  No.  However, one will have to yield to the Spirit, submitting not to the flesh but to the Spirit’s desire for our lives, our relationships, and our leadership groups.  Otherwise, we will yield to the flesh, saying what is thoughtless and hurtful, and looking for a cheap laugh at someone else’s expense instead of building one another up.

Are You Committed or Still Flirting with Another Way?

Most married people will say that commitment is critical in marriage.  However, some seem to still flirt with other possibilities. 

Some singles talk about the kind of marriage they want one day.  In the meantime, they date people solely on the basis of physical attraction.  Nothing wrong with physically attraction.  However, when this becomes the determining factor as to who someone dates, the next step is often rationalization.  After they begin dating, one may hear that “he/she is really a good person and has a good heart.”  Quite often this is based on what this other person is saying instead of the way he has been living.

Some men and women speak about how much the Lord means to them.  Yet, their lifestyles on the weekends may suggest that they are still flirting with the world.  What we talk about, how we spend our money and the quality of our friends often says much about who we really are.

Some Christians talk about being “all in” for Jesus.  Yet, some of us seem to show more interest than commitment.

All of this is a recipe for missing out on real joy.  Showing an interest in Jesus is just not the same as being committed.  Being interested in Jesus is not the same as discipleship.

Commitment really is a good word.

Commitment means the world to a marriage and to a child who looks to you as a dad or mom.  It means mom or dad is there and not going away.  It also means much to Jesus who has called you and me to follow him.

Give it Five Minutes

(Choose to Respond instead of React)

Author Jason Fried tells the story of hearing a speaker at a conference in Providence, Rhode Island.  While the speaker was speaking, he was “making an inventory” of the things he didn’t agree with.  After Fried met the speaker, he immediately began to express to him the things he didn’t agree with.  Fried then describes how this speaker responded to his criticisms:

It was a simple thing. He said “Man, give it five minutes.” I asked him what he meant by that? He said, it’s fine to disagree, it’s fine to push back, it’s great to have strong opinions and beliefs, but give my ideas some time to set in before you’re sure you want to argue against them. “Five minutes” represented “think”, not react. He was totally right. I came into the discussion looking to prove something, not learn something.

Does this resonate with you?

I text others quite regularly.  One of the downsides of texting is that it is quite easy to react instead of think.  The text comes in and within seconds I can react and sent a reply.  I have learned to pause and think.  Yes, it is tempting to react but a quick reaction does not have near the value of a response that comes after thinking.

One reason why we often have difficulty even having civil conversations with people with whom we disagree is because we have reacted so quickly instead of thinking and then giving a thoughtful response.  This happens in marriages, with our children, and in our churches.

A few suggestions:

  1. In conversations with others at church (or elsewhere), we would do well to listen to their point of view instead of simply reacting.  You might ask, “Would you help me understand your train of thought?  How did you arrive at such a conclusion?”
  2. In meetings with others, with whom we do not agree, we might seek to really understand what they are saying and what is behind their particular concern instead of just reacting.
  3. When talking with our families, we might consider what is at stake when we simply react.  I can recall times when dealing with our children when I did not listen because in my thinking, I was already formulating my response.

Bottom line: Before saying anything, we might just give it “five minutes.”  It can be the difference in reacting and in giving a thoughtful response.

 

When Preachers Suffer Self-Inflicted Wounds

Serving as a minister can be hard – very hard.  Yes, there are many situations where preachers and their families have been mistreated by their own congregation.  These are real situations and deserve our thought, attention, and prayer.

Yet, I don’t want to overlook another reality for many who preach.  This reality is the self-inflicted wound.  Some of us misbehave and do not model what it means to be a healthy or a Christ-like minister.  For example:

*One particular preacher would not respond to the elders of his congregation.  Their requests, regardless of how small, were generally met with pushback.  He said openly that he does not like dealing with elders or anyone who might have authority.  He has only been with the congregation for three years. (He was at his prior congregation two years.)  It appears that unless something changes, he will be asked to move on.

*Another preacher was known to have a volatile temper, particularly when he did not get his way.  He became incensed one night in an elders’ meeting and spoke sharply to two elders who had raised a few questions about an initiative that he proposed.

*In one congregation, a long-time minister attempted to manipulate several elders so that he might get what he wanted from the elder group.  Often, he would pay one or two elders a lot of attention outside their meetings, leading them to think they were “best friends” with this minister.  Whenever this minister had a complaint or a request, he would use these two to push his agenda in the elder group.  Eventually, these two elders differed with him on a particular matter and the “friendship” was over.  It took some of the elders years to see how they were being used.

*In still another congregation, a minister was known as being very difficult for the other ministers on staff to work with.  Volunteers at the church also found him difficult.  He was once asked about his stubbornness.  His response was “That’s just the way I am.”

These self-inflicted wounds damage marriages, friendships, and one’s ministry with the congregation.  They often reflect emotional immaturity instead of displaying emotional maturity.  Such wounds may cause a ministry at a congregation to end abruptly or prematurely.  The bottom line, however, is that this does not have to be this way.

Ministry is hard enough.  However, self-inflicted wounds sometimes defeat a ministry that would otherwise contribute to the spread of the kingdom in that city.

Monday Notes

(Various resources you might enjoy)

The following are some examples of what I read in the past week.  Perhaps some of these will be of interest to you.

Benny Hinn is my uncle but prosperity preaching isn’t for me,” Costi Hinn, Christianity Today, September 10, 2017.

Managers as Mentors,” Walter C. Wright, Comment, December 1, 2006.

Happiness Traps: How We Sabotage Ourselves At Work,” Annie McKee, Harvard Business Review, September-October 2017.

The Mainliner Who Made Me More Evangelical,” Russell Moore, Christianity Today, September 20, 2017.

Right now I am reading two books, That’s Not How We Do It Here! – John  Kotter and Teaching Fish to Walk – Peter L. Steinke.

Perhaps one of these will be helpful.  I listen to podcasts, read articles, and am usually reading a book or two.  Of course, I would love to hear about any resource that has been helpful, encouraging, or insightful.

How to Avoid Messing Up Your Future By Focusing on Today

You can’t have low standards for whom you date and high standards for whom you marry. Typically people do not date low and then marry high.  

This principle is true for so much of life.  Some of us like to envision a future for ourselves in which we live right, marry right, and raise up our children right.  We may envision a good life in which we enjoy life and God gains pleasure.

Someday.

In the meantime, we may live in a way in which such a future could be just an illusion.  In the present, we may think that we can pretty well do what we want and it will all work out later.  We may not flirt with others but we do flirt with the world.  The illusion is that we have everything under control.  It will all be different someday, we tell ourselves.

What some do not consider is what such a life (in the present) actually does to one’s heart. Jeremiah said that the heart was deceitful.  “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure” (Jeremiah 17:9).

What does my heart display when my aspiration about the future says one thing and my present behavior says another?

One day, I want to marry a godly man/woman.  (But today, I date men/women whose lives do not reflect a pursuit of godliness.)

One day, I want to give much money to help the poor.  (But today, I spend much money on random purchases and impulsive buying.)

One day, I want to grow and mature in Jesus.  (But today, my attention is focused on my physical appearance and showing others that I still have got it.)

One day, I want to be a person who is passionate about being a kingdom influence on other people.  (But today, my heart is preoccupied with wanting the things of this world.)

One day, I want to make a godly difference in another’s life and character.  (But today, I am more known by my efforts to gain attention for myself.)

One day, I want to speak words of encouragement and grace to others.  (But today, my speech seems to be mostly focused on myself.)

Today is the day in which I need to live with the values that I envision being a part of my life one day.

Today is the day in which I need to deal with my life through repentance and Spirit empowered transformation.

Today is the day to start becoming the kind of person I really want to be someday.

Today.

 

 

 

10 Game Changers for Christian Leaders

1.   The very best thing you have to offer a church is your own transforming self. (Credit to Ruth Haley Barton for this language.) That is, you are a person who is in the process of being shaped and transformed into the image of Christ.

2.   Manage yourself.  You can spend much of your life doing little more than emotionally reacting to your past.  As a result, much of life can be spent projecting or blaming others for your lot in life.  Or, you spend your life repeating old, negative patterns of behavior from the past.

3.  You have learned something but it is important to keep on learning.  There is no reason to think you have nothing to offer.  You have learned something.  At the same time, there is no reason to be smug and arrogant.  After all, there is much that we can still learn. We have learned and we are learning.

4.  Smile.  You may be brilliant.  You may be accomplished.  You may be successful.  Yet, you will not have the influence with some that you otherwise might have if you would simply smile and be more approachable.

5.  Never underestimate what others can teach you.  You can learn something from all kinds of people.  Beware of underestimating what another can teach you.

6.  Choose to have a great attitude.  You may be unhappy at work.  You may be unhappy with your job.  You may be unhappy with where you live.  However, when your unhappiness begins to impact your attitude, you are on a self-defeating journey.  By the grace of God, you and I can choose to have a good attitude.  When you have a good attitude, you may even bring energy into the room.  In fact, others will often want to be around you.

7.  Take personal temptation seriously.  Beware of doing something stupid which may bring about negative consequences for decades to come.  Humble people take personal temptation seriously.

8.  Pay attention to others.  Far too many of us are completely self-absorbed.  We talk on and on about ourselves and pay little if any attention to others.  Pay attention to the person checking you out at the grocery store or Starbucks.  Pay attention to the person right in front of you.  Paying attention to another is one way to get out of yourself and get into the life and concern of another.

9.  Read.  Read.  Read.  Perhaps you don’t like to read.  Then read for just ten minutes a day.  If you are reading for ten minutes a day, this will add up very quickly.  Over time you might be amazed at how much you have read just from this daily discipline.

10.  Rest.  Take a day off.  Sleep.  Go to the gym.  Take a walk.  Do something joyful.  Taking care of one’s self honors the creator.

“I Was Just Kidding”

(Refuse to let a critical spirit spoil your marriage)

A regular stream of critical words has a way of taking the joy out of a marriage.  A marriage in which a husband and wife regularly criticizes one another can feel like you are being nibbled to death by a duck.

Sometimes we will level a criticism toward our spouse followed by the words, “I was just kidding.”  Often this is a passive aggressive way of not taking responsibility for what was just said.  Slowly but surely, such criticisms have a way of poisoning the atmosphere of a marriage.

Consider:

A husband has been working very hard in the yard during much of a hot summer day.  Finally, he comes inside, pleased with the improvement in the yard.  Meanwhile, his spouse goes outside to look at the front yard.  The very first thing she says in response to his work is, “Well aren’t you going to clean up the flower bed on the side of the house?  It looks awful!  It’s embarrassing!”  Wow.  No affirmation or appreciation for what has been done.  Instead, the first word is a critical remark that basically says, “I see what you’ve done but it doesn’t measure up.”

Now of course there is a time in which this spouse could express her desire that he address the flower bed on the side of the house.  Yet, when we immediately choose criticism over appreciation and gratitude, this probably isn’t going to be received well.

That Saturday evening, this couple eats a nice meal at home. She has prepared a roast that has cooked much of the day.  She has also prepared several vegetable dishes and a nice salad.  At the conclusion of the dinner, he asks about desert.  After learning there is no desert, he makes a big deal about never having desert.  Instead of expressing appreciation and affirmation for what she has done, he immediately begins complaining.  No thank you.  No words of appreciation.  Just complaining.  This kind of response gets old, very quickly.