Monthly Archives: November 2016

Satan Thrives in the Past

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Satan does some of his finest work in our memories. Well, at least in my memories. Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m sort of unique in that I am constantly hitting the rewind button and replaying my failures and mistakes. God knows that there’s plenty to choose from. It’s those solitaire moments when Satan is at his best, and I’m at my worst.

Of course, we’re talking about regret here. What I wish I would have done. What I wish I hadn’t done. What I wish I would have known. What I wish I wouldn’t have said. What I wish I would have said. It seems like I’ve got a long list for each category. Just in case you’re a little more like me than what I figured, maybe the short version of my list will encourage you a little.

  • I wish that I hadn’t taken so long to mature emotionally.
  • I wish that I would have taken my undergrad college years more seriously.
  • I wish I wouldn’t have borrowed so much money to renovate that house.
  • I wish I could have stayed longer at the churches that I’ve served.

Okay, I think that’s enough. I’m sure you get the idea. As I sit here thinking and writing, I’ve begun to realize how troubling living in the past is – especially the past that we wish we could take a mulligan on. I can only think of one good thing that comes out of reliving  my mistakes and failures: learning from them. Sometimes thinking about an event, conversation or decision just one time (right after the fact) doesn’t give us enough of an opportunity to process it and learn from it. Sometimes we need to let some time pass before we’re able to accurately reflect on the past. But other than this one benefit, I can think of nothing else positive that comes from laboring in the past.

On the other hand, I can think of more than a few bad things that does to me.

  1. Pulls my attention away from what’s most important right now; like my relationships with God, my wife, my kids and all the people in my life that love me. The more time I spend on the negative means I am devoting less time to what could be positive in my life.
  2. Satan uses these thoughts to eat away at my self-esteem and self-confidence. That’s important to and for everyone – regardless of your work or family situation. But I can say for certain that as a minister/church leader, it’s an absolute career killer. If I lose confidence in myself then it will reflect in my teaching, preaching and relationships in the church. Very few people are going to be interested or able to follow someone who isn’t convicted, passionate and sure of what he’s “selling”.
  3. Not only does it pull my attention away from God (like I mentioned in the first point), but it also wears down and strips away the fabric of my relationship with God. This is kind of a no-brainer, it’s not scriptural to live in the past. Take for example the teaching from the Prophet Jeremiah.

31 “Behold, days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD. 33 “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the LORD, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 34 They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they will allknow Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the LORD, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” Jeremiah 31:31-34

It’s not real hard for me to see that this timeless scripture applies to me as well. It such a refreshing thought to consider how I spend A LOT more time considering my failures and mistakes than what God does. Knowing that his is the only opinion that really counts, that seems kind of silly.

It helps me to admit that I have walked through more valleys filled with self-doubt than I care to remember. I know many others have as well. So I write this with the sincere desire that you would come to understand with just a little more clarity that God loves you dearly, forgives the penitent and longs for all his children to find the peace that comes only from knowing him.

May God bless and keep you in his warmth of his arms. Amen.

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Dealing With Criticism

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I rarely feel totally comfortable and qualified to share my opinion on a subject. But if I was ever going to feel like I has something worthwhile to offer it would be this on handling criticism. That’s not because I’m an expert either. I’ve just gotten this one wrong so much that I’m able to spot when somethings off. Not being able to handle criticism and conflict was the cause of my failure in ministry on my first go around. It took six years of work by God (through secular management) to get me to the point where I could be most effective for Him in the Church. I’m now able to look back on those three years of failure and six years 0f growing and see His hand-prints all over my life. Here’s a few things I’ve picked up along the way. Though they are not in order of importance, they really do flow in order from one to the next.

First, even if the criticism is meant to be personal, don’t take it personally. NOTHING positive will result from that, ever. If you receive criticism (especially as a leader) it’s most likely that you’re being criticized for what you stand for or a decision that you’ve made. That’s not personal. That type (of criticism) is directly related to your role or position that you occupy.

Second, don’t get defensive. Another way of saying this – don’t build up a wall, set up camp behind it and start tossing hand grenades over it. This will lead to immediate conflict and potential damage to the relationship. Defensiveness is really a sign of immaturity and lack of accountability. Those are traits that we should definitely avoid.

Third, LISTEN to what the other person has to say. By actively listening to the persons’ concerns (nice word for criticism) you are validating them and communicating to them that their opinion matters to you and that they matter to you. And in the process you are earning respect and building trust.

Fourth, sit in their seat and see it from their perspective. Chances are, you’ll realize that they really do have something to offer you in terms of improving and growing. It’s rare that a person is just blowing hot air, wanting to be difficult and really has nothing valuable to offer. Most of the time, people have valid concerns and by listening to them you can learn, grow and improve yourself and likely the situation or organization that you’re both involved in.

Fifth, be grateful that the person chose to bring their criticism to you. Don’t think for a moment that Satan wasn’t encouraging them to take it to everyone else but you. Now, instead of just being part of a problem that you may know nothing about, you can be part of a solution to one. That’s definitely something to be grateful for. Don’t forget to express your gratitude to the person. If the person is there with pure motives, this type of reaction will win them over. If their motives are questionable, this type of reaction will blow them away (because they are probably ready for a fight).

Sixth, and most important, pray together. For all my deficiencies and failures, I’ve never once made things worse by asking the other person to pray with me.

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Churches and their Bank Accounts

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The more I learn about God’s revealed will, the more I realize how little I know. Every day I am overwhelmed by the depth of God. It seems like an everyday occurrence that I come across an issue or question that stumps me. Sometimes I think I’ve got a line on figuring it out and other times I just sit and scratch my head. Here’s one that has me puzzled: congregations, their bank accounts and net worth. That’s such a complicated and difficult subject, mostly because there’s so little specific direction or information from the Bible.

One thing about this topic that seems a little “strange” is how one-sided it is. I’ve seen many congregations that held large amounts of land and a substantial amount in their bank account. But I literally can’t recall a congregation that purposefully kept a specific low amount in their bank account.

I’m no wise old sage on this subject (or any other for that matter) but I’ve got to say it seems a little “off” for a congregation to hold on to a high net worth just for the sake of having it. Don’t get me wrong. I completely understand why this is the case. Take my congregation for example. I wouldn’t say that we’re sitting on a lot in our account, but we’re not hurting. And it seems like we tend to lean towards a more conservative approach with our money. That’s not a bad thing. But I think we’re more likely to err conservatively because there have been some awfully lean years in the past. I once heard one of our older members refer back to months when we had to choose whether to pay the electric bill or the mortgage. That was probably an exaggeration. But you get the point.

On the flip side of this (in terms of motivation), there have been congregations that bought land adjacent to theirs just because it was for sale. They didn’t have a specific need for it. Nor did they have any plans to use it. They just bought so that they wouldn’t be boxed-in or landlocked. Now, I don’t mean to give my congregation a pass and be judgmental of on another one. But in a case like this it would seem like  the motivation does matter. Is that being a good steward with God’s resources? I struggle to say yes. Is it even being strategic? No, not really. If there was a reason to make the purchase and a plan behind it, then that would be something else. But to do it just because . . . that feels wrong.

So, there’s a couple of examples. Both happen to be actual real-life examples. You’ll have to make your own determination. But here’s my take on the issue. First, I think it’s necessary to spend money wisely. When the decision is made to make a purchase or support a ministry, do your homework. Know what you’re buying and what kind of return on investment you expect. Second, it’s foolish not to keep some emergency reserve money in the account. Rainy days do come. And it’s certainly nice to own an umbrella. Third, we’ve got to be purposeful when we plan for rainy days. At some point, hopefully sooner rather than later, faith needs to rear its head and be a deciding factor on decisions. What do you think would please God more: a congregation that has been able to save and accumulate 100k in their account, or a congregation that stopped saving when they got to 25k and started giving the money away to further the cause of Christ? You decide.

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