Two Focuses of Every Leader

What is keeping you from growing spiritually? What’s preventing you from making progress at your job, ministry?

As a leader, most of your time is spent on these two objectives: 1) building steps and 2) removing obstacles.

This applies as you lead at your ministry, your organization, and your family.

I talked HERE about building steps. But what about obstacles? What does an obstacle look like? Do you have obstacles that are blocking your leadership and growth?

Common obstacles are lack of time, talent, and treasure. However, often times obstacles are disguised as people.

Obstacles can look like:

  1. someone who doesn’t fully understand the vision
  2. someone who has a “competing” vision or agenda
  3. someone constantly celebrating the past instead of planning for the future
  4. someone who focuses on “me” more than “us”

When the obstacle is a person, you’ll rightly feel the desire to walk with them toward a changed heart. The fun part is they have the potential to be transformed from an obstacle into a step leading others to Him.

Where is there an obstacle? You’re the leader. That means you build steps and remove obstacles.

Two Ways to See More Clearly

Our family is enjoying a vacation back in Texas to see our family and friends. Among others things, these trips provide perspective.

I’m reminded how fast time is moving forward when I see how my niece and nephews have grown and how other people are gently aging (but not me of course). I’m also reminded of what and who is important, the frailty of life, and God’s many blessings. In other words, perspective.

An accurate perspective is a growing leader’s best friend.

An inaccurate perspective tricks me into spending more time at work on “one more project” and neglecting time with my family. An inaccurate perspective tricks me into skipping my time with God this week because I’m too busy. An inaccurate perspective tricks me into being sharp or condescending with my wife because I’m stressed and I think I can appreciate her more later. An inaccurate perspective tricks me into always planning time with my kids for latter – not now.

An inaccurate perspective is too expensive!

To be an effective Christ-follower, father, husband, pastor, and friend I must have an accurate perspective.

Like me, you’re busy, so how do we do that? How do I keep the fresh perspective that an annual vacation provides?

Here are two ways to help us maintain an accurate perspective:

1) Identify & review the “big rocks”

What are the most important things to you? Who are the most important people to you?Write it (them) down. Create a personal “dashboard”. There are a lot of things you could give your attention but what’s on your dashboard are the most important things/people you don’t want to lose sight of.

Then create a system to review your big rocks.

Long-lasting changes aren’t achieved in days or weeks. You must have monthly and annual reviews. A personal journal, an active professional calendar, an annual couple’s retreat are some of the tools that can help.

What are your “big rocks”? What is working? Why is it working? What’s the plan to achieve your goals?

2) Include outsiders

An outside voice in your organization is invaluable. After a only few months in your role, you’re already guilty of accepting and overlooking things that need to be changed. If you don’t invite the voice of outsiders into the process (professional, parenting, marriage, spiritual, etc.) then you don’t have an accurate perspective.

Andy Stanley asks, “Why don’t the unchurched people in your area go to church? Could it be because you’re focusing on who you’re trying to keep instead of who you’re trying to reach?”

A desire to listen to outsiders is insufficient. An appreciation of the value of outsiders is insufficient. You’ll only listen to outsiders regularly if you have a system that allows you to tap into the essential voice of outsiders.

Are you listening to outsiders? If so, how are you benefiting from it? If not, what system could you put into place to include their critical voice?

Are You Performing for Pictures?

Last summer my family went to San Francisco and we were overwhelmed to see the majestic Golden Gate Bridge in person for the first time. It possess a beauty that’s indescribable. We took too many pictures to count. 

What I found extremely odd was how everyone completely ignored the nearby Oakland Bay Bridge. The Bay Bridge (often referred to as “the other bridge”) would be impressive if it were anywhere except next to the Golden Gate Bridge. Interestingly, I discovered that the Bay Bridge is actually longer and older (by 6 months) than the more popular Golden Gate Bridge.

Though impressive, The Oakland Bay Bridge is not as majestic or “photo worthy” as it’s shorter, younger, and more popular neighbor down the bay.

Here’s what I was most surprised to learn: The Oakland Bay Bridge has more than double the number of cars crossing it each day compared to the Golden Gate Bridge.

If the purpose of a bridge is to transport people from one side to the other, then there is no question the Oakland Bay Bridge is dramatically more effective at “being a bridge” (minus the 1989 earthquake setback). The original bridge designers and builders would surely consider The Oakland Bay Bridge the most effective.

But the Golden Gate Bridge has become famous for pictures.

Like the bridge designers/builders, God created me and you for a purpose. He desires me and you to help others cross the bridge into a relationship with Him. However, in our Instagram world it’s tempting to spend our time performing for pictures – trying to impress others.

In your financial decisions, will you perform for pictures or the King? When dividing your time between work and family will you perform for pictures or the King? When setting goals for you business/ministry, will you perform for pictures or the King?

Eventually, when you and I stand before our Designer, He won’t ask for pictures. He will ask, “Did you help people cross from one side to the other?”

Don’t perform for pictures today. Help people get from one side to the other.

I Sam. 16:7b “The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

2 Truths About Your Problems

Lie #1: Someday I will not have problems.

Result of lie #1: If I believe someday I won’t have problems then I’m unable to embrace today because I’m anticipating a future that will be problem-free.

Jesus, “In this world you will have trouble.” (John 16:33)

I will always have problems. You will always have problems.

Truth #1: You will always have problems

Lie #2: Problems are my enemy.

Result of lie #2: If problems are my enemy, I will live trying to eliminate them rather than learn from them.

“The storms in my life have become workshops where I can practice my faith in God’s sovereignty.” Jill Briscoe.

God uses your problems to shape you.

James 1:2-4 “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

Truth #2: Your problems have a purpose

My Pastor, Daniel Hahn, recently taught on this. You can listen to it HERE. So relevant. So helpful.

10 Things I Want My Daughter to Know Before She Leaves for College

Yesterday was my 2nd daughter’s 9th birthday. She’s growing up too fast. I know she’ll be leaving for college tomorrow . . . seemingly. (In reality, we have approximately 472 short weeks left before she leaves for college.)

So I thought I’d make a list of the things I want her to know before she leaves home.

So Kennedy I want you to know that:

  1. God made you
  2. God loves you
  3. You can trust God no matter what
  4. You need to make the wise choice
  5. Consider others before yourself
  6. Your friends will determine your future
  7. Your purity will pave the way for your intimacy
  8. Your freedom is found under God’s authority
  9. If you see as God sees, you will do as God does
  10. You will go further with others than you will alone

 

Truthfully, none of these are original with me. I borrowed the wording from great organizations like 252 Basics and North Point. (See #10)

Now, I’ve got to get to work. It won’t be easy but she’s worth it!

Recalibrate Your Thinking Today

Today it will be easy to think about the things that are wrong and hurtful in your life right now.

I am learning that I am not a slave to my thoughts. Just because a negative thought enters my mind does not mean I am obligated to dwell on it. I am perfectly capable of refocusing my thoughts on the many examples of God’s goodness.

The choice is mine. The choice is yours.

Choose to focus on the things that are good and hopeful in your life. Then spend all day thanking God for those things.

Watch Philippians 4:8 recalibrate your thinking by camping on God’s goodness.

The 2 Most Common Regrets

I spent a couple of years ministering as a hospice chaplain. Every day I’d spend time talking and praying with people who were within six months of their death. During our conversations they’d often share their life’s regrets. Eventually, I noticed that there were two common regrets that people shared. Can you guess what they were?

Before my chaplain experience, I would have guessed, “Not achieving my ‘bucket list’ goals”, “Never reaching certain lifestyles”, or “I missed out on fame and money”. But none of those were ever mentioned to me.

The two regrets I commonly heard expressed from people nearing death were: 1) I wish I’d prioritized relationships and 2) I wish I’d traveled more.

1) Prioritize Relationships 

Who are the people that you want holding your hand when you die? Prioritize those relationships.

Today you’ll have work to do, meetings to attend, emails to send, and commitments to keep. Have a productive day but prioritize those relationships.

“But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” – Hebrews 3:13

2) Be adventurous

What dreams are you pursuing?

Yesterday Stephen Covey died three months after a bicycle accident. Like many of you, I am so grateful for his books on values.

One thing is obvious, Covey lived a life of adventure. At the age of 79 he was knocked unconscious in a bicycle accident on a steep road in the foothills of Provo, Utah.

As he died this quote by a family member caught my attention: “In his final hours, he was surrounded by his loving wife and each one of his children and their spouses, just as he always wanted.”

They could probably add, “no regrets.”

3 Hidden Costs to Staying Hurt

When you’re hurt you want to stay hurt. Feeling sorry for yourself seems irresistible.

Staying hurt is an option. Maybe you’re choosing that option. If so, let’s look at the fine print.

Here are the three hidden costs of staying hurt:

1) Your Dreams

You used to dream. Remember?

Maybe you wanted to become the kind of parent others admired. Maybe you wanted to be a spouse that encouraged your wife/husband to be more than they ever imagined? Maybe you wanted to encourage others to live with bigger faith? You wanted to make a difference.

Right now, can you recall one of your dreams? Got it?

It feels like a long, lost friend doesn’t it?

If you’re still hurt, you’ve stopped dreaming. Why? It’s impossible to dream about the future when you’re so consumed with the past.

You don’t want to forfeit all of your dreams in order to stay hurt.

2) Your Relationships

You may not know this but your friends and family all know that you’re still hurting. In fact, they talk about it when you’re not around. One of the things they discuss is their desire to see you heal.

I know that because being staying hurt impacts all of your relationships.

Have you noticed that certain people avoid you or avoid bringing up certain topics around you? They don’t like the awkwardness that your continuing hurt causes them.

The healthiest people in your life seem a little less enthusiastic about having long conversations with you. They no longer ask, “So how are you really doing?”

Despite your best intentions, your conversations somehow always include your hurt or the people you’re blaming. Later, when you think back on your conversations, you think, “Oh, I wish I hadn’t brought that up again!” You’re hoping your friends haven’t noticed. Believe me, they have.

When your friends mention the person who hurt you in a conversation they feel the pressure to use disparaging words, use a disgusting vocal tone, or roll their eyes. If they don’t, they fear you will question their “loyalty”.

As you continue to hurt, it feels like all of your relationships have changed. They have.

Your friends and family will be patient for awhile.

Warning: If you stay hurt, you will force your friends and family members to make difficult decisions about the relationship they have with you. Your relationship with friends and family will suffer significantly.

3) Your Purpose

Imagine a conversation about you in Heaven between God and an angel years ago:

“As I create this little baby in the mother’s womb, I want to tell you about this little baby. This baby has a beautiful smile and a soft heart. I will create this one fearfully and wonderfully. I already love her/him so much. In fact, I would have sent Jesus to the Cross if they were my only creation. At times this young adult will worship me completely. I’m already looking forward to spending eternity together. Interactions with my other creations will eventually cause hurt. After being hurt, my extraordinary purposes will still await. In fact, I have plans to use that hurt to help others. This beautiful little creation of mine will have one hurdle to clear after being hurt. Will they stay hurt? That hurdle will reveal if he/she believes that I can be trusted.”

Your dreams aren’t dead. But, staying hurt will kill them.

Your relationships don’t have to deteriorate. But, staying hurt will destroy them.

Your purposes haven’t been erased. But, staying hurt will squelch them.

Your dreams, relationships, and purposes are all at stake. The hidden costs of you staying hurt reveal that it’s a bad option.

How do you forgive without letting ‘em off the hook?

When someone hurts you it’s difficult to forgive them because you don’t want to let them get away with it. You sure don’t want to let ’em off the hook! Right?

If our forgiveness means a person doesn’t have to pay for their offense then most of us would withhold forgiveness.

This became personal for Ginger and I when someone robbed our home last Fall. Such a violating experience! We had to make the difficult decision to completely forgive the face-less and name-less criminals. Several weeks later the police found and arrested our criminals. We were immediately ready to prosecute.

Does that mean we hadn’t really forgiven them? Did we have to “un-forgive” them?

Can you forgive someone you want punished? Does forgiving equal letting them off the hook?

Are you struggling on rather to pursue forgiveness or justice?

I’m learning the important distinction between forgiveness and a pardon.

A pardon releases the criminal from the penalty of their crime.

Forgiveness releases the victim from the hurt of the criminal’s crime.

A pardon releases them. Forgiveness releases me.

Paul teaches that we’re responsible to forgive while God focuses on the pardon. (Rom. 12:17-21)

However, forgiveness and a pardon can be done simultaneously. We see that when Jesus taught on forgiveness in the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant (Matt 18:21-35). In this parable, the king offered forgiveness and a pardon by immediately releasing the prisoner (servant). The king released the criminal from the penalty of his crime.

After the criminal (servant) went to the king and personally begged for mercy, the king choose to forgive and pardon. You can choose to morally or legally (depending on the crime) pardon but that’s in addition to forgiveness. Spiritually, you are unable to pardon anyone of anything. Only God can offer spiritual pardons.

In our robbery, we chose to forgive but not to pardon.

Forgiving someone doesn’t let them off the hook.

Forgiveness doesn’t make the other person right; it makes you free. – Stormie Omartian

Forgiveness doesn’t guarantee the relationship is restored but that you are released.

So feel the freedom to forgive completely and consistently.

The dirty little secret of unforgiveness

You want to forgive. You know you should forgive. You know forgiving would make your life better. So why don’t you?

I listed some of the common reasons HERE.

However, there’s a deeper reason causing you to struggle with forgiveness. It’s the dirty little secret of unforgiveness.

Unforgiveness is emotional. We often don’t forgive because of the way we feel. We believe, “I can’t forgive because I still feel hurt or I feel like they . . .”

Sadly, feelings lead us down the unforgiveness pathway.

Feelings are good indicators, but terrible leaders.

“Most of us operate with the belief that I must feel differently before I can think differently.” – Kay Warren Choose Joy

Forgiveness formula: Thinking changes first, our actions come next, and our feelings will follow.

“You can’t feel your way into an action but you can act your way into feeling.” – Kay Warren (Click HERE to tweet that.)

Scripture focuses on how we should think & act not how we should feel. Long before psychology, God taught us to change our thinking/actions and our feelings would fall in line.

Recognize your feelings. But don’t let them lead.