Friday, January 29, 2016

You May Not Know What You Think You Know

What do you know to be true?   If you're an ambitious person, you're probably working on some new things that you're excited about.  And you base many of your decisions on the presuppositions you believe to be true about your situation. Can I ask you a question, though.  What if you're wrong?

Like you, I'm ambitious. I'm working on writing a book this year.  Hopefully, my first of many.  This particular one chronicles my journey as a church planter and the incredible leadership lessons God has taught me in the process.  The book probably won't be ready until the end of this year, but here's one lesson for you now.  You may not know what you think you know.

It's tough when what you knew to be true gets dumped on its head and you have to try and re-learn what you thought you knew so well.  Six years ago, there were a few things I knew very well.  I knew I was a world-class leader.  I knew I would plant one of the fastest-growing churches the country had ever seen.  I knew that as long as I worked hard on building God's church, my family's financial security would never be threatened.  It's a bummer when you're 0 for 3.

Those were some painful years.  What I realize now is that I could have skipped a lot of that pain by asking for some counsel from people around me.  I'm talking much more than "Hey, this is what I'm doing.  What do you think?"  That's not inviting any kind of real counsel.  I mean getting with someone you know will tell it to you straight, look them in the eye and ask, "Is my plan crazy?  Can this even work?"  You'll know if you're doing it right.  There will be a knot in your stomach and you'll feel like you're about to throw up.  

Got some big plans?  Good.  Don't forget the most important part.  Ask the right people for real counsel.  You may not know what you think you know.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Re-ordering Your Private World For The Next Part Of Your Journey

Ok, maybe you're a Christian.  Maybe you're going to heaven when you die.  But, have you ever felt, after the initial excitement of it wore off, that there must be something more than just being "saved"?  Well, there is.  Read on.

I just finished my first book of the new year.  It was one that I got for Christmas, maybe ten years ago.  I believe I started it three or four times and never made it more than a couple chapters in.  I was tempted to think it wasn't very good and probably not worth reading.  The truth was, I wasn't ready to hear what it was saying.  Thank God that I was this time.

The book is Mid-Course Correction by Gordon MacDonald and it is well worth the read.  He builds the book on the concept of "vital optimism".  Here's a short excerpt to explain:

"(Vital optimist is) the confident expectation that history is going somewhere and that God our Creator and Redeemer is powerfully directing it.  Without such vital optimism or hope, life is, to say the least, quite troublesome."

MacDonald went on to chronicle the journey of 3 distinct people groups: (1) Abram and his clan as they answered a call to leave what was familiar in the book of Genesis, (2) the Israelites as they wrestled with the challenge to follow God's leading after they left Egypt and (3) the disciples of Christ as they reached higher toward a type of living the world had never seen before and we rarely see today.

After he unpacks those three stories in some details, we're left with the rock bottom concept, which is, to share another excerpt:

"Deep life change, mid-course correction, comes:

(1) When a person learns to leave and journey according to the hidden purposes of God.
(2) When a person learns to follow and master the hidden life of character according to Christ.
(3) When a person learns to reach beyond circumstances, adversity and death to the hidden rewards that lie waiting for those who enter eternity with Him.
Living like this brings mid-course correction of the deepest sort.  And we shall not be disappointed."

Are you looking for a life full of vital optimism?  Are you feeling somewhat hopeless?  Do you just know, deep down, that you were created for more than what you know so far?  I can't recommend this book enough for you.  We all know, deep down, that we're in need of a mid-course correction.  This book shows us what that has looked like in others past and what it could look like for us in our future.  

If you have read it or do read it in the future, I'd love to know what you think.

Friday, January 15, 2016

They set out to change the world . . . because it was easier than changing themselves.

Do you want to change the world?  Who doesn't?  At least who hasn't felt like that, at some season of life.  Given, there are distinct seasons of life.  You might be young and full of optimism.  You might be aging and feel beat down by life.  You might be in the the throes of the fight of your life and survival is the order of the day.  Believe me, I can identify, but be encouraged.  That season will pass and that vital optimism you had in your youth will return if you allow it.

Can I share something God has been teaching me lately?  And I hope this can be helpful to you today.  Changing the world is not a great goal.  Think about it.  If your focus is to change the world, all of your energy is focused outside of yourself.  How do I know?  I've been there.  I've done it. I've made the mistake.  Five years ago, I was in the middle of starting up the next world-changing church.  The truth is, that church didn't change the world much at all.  But it did cause me to put myself and my family aside for a very long season . . . all in the name of changing the world.  So, I can tell you, from first-hand experience, that's no way to live.

What if it's more important to change yourself?  What if all the would-be world changes are so passionate about their cause because it's easier to change the world than it is to change themselves?   Instead of looking at the rest of the world,  how about you look at yourself today? Are you growing?  Are you gaining victory over some dark part of your life? (we all have them) Are you caring for yourself and the few God has given you responsibility to care for?  The truth is, you're not responsible to change the world, but you are responsible to change yourself.  Has it occurred to you that a changed you will bring more change to your world than any grand vision you may set out on?

Here's the challenge I'll leave for you today.  What are you doing to change yourself?  If the answer to that question is intensely personal, I understand.  If it's not, why not share it in the comments section?  Whether you share it or not, I hope you'll take on the responsibility for answering the question today.  I wish you luck.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Refuse To Get Bitter

"No matter what happens, refuse to get bitter."  I'll never forget the first time I heard that statement made.  It was Matt Keller from Next Level Church in Ft. Myers, Fl.  He was hosting and leading my church planter training with ARC.  It was a week of intense training to get me ready to lead the church that I believed, at the time, would grow to be one of the largest and most significant churches we had ever seen.

That was February of 2010.  My church launched in September of that same year.  It never really took off.  In fact, I'm in the process of writing a book about my experiences and the lessons learned during that phase of my life.  But, by November 2011, I was feeling pretty hopeless about it and by April, 2012 I had resigned.  That church went on for a couple more years and then merged with another.

What happened with that church is not the point here.  What happened with me is.  Just like the thing you're struggling to come to terms with right now is not the point.  What you choose to do with all you're feeling about it is.  Was my experience with that church painful?  You bet it was - the most painful experience of my life, to date.  Did I feel feelings of regret, resentment, frustration and anger?  Yes - on a daily basis for a number of years.  But, if you ask me the question, "Did you get bitter about it?" I can honestly and confidently say, "No, I didn't."  You see, anger, frustration and a host of other negative emotions are temporary.  Bitterness is a state of being that you must decide to embody - or not.

If you're human, you've had some kind of disappointment and maybe even all out heart-break.   Here's what I want you to know today.  Although you will feel all kinds of pain related to that disappointment and heartbreak, you decide what to do with all that pain.  You can relish it and internalize it, which will make you bitter.  Or, you can use it to learn lessons - often very tough lessons about who you are and who you can be.  But, whichever path you take is your choice.  You may have been the victim of someone else's wrong-doing, but you're not a victim when it comes to how you'll react to it.

I recall the darkest of those years when I would daily say to myself out loud, "I refuse to get bitter."  I could hear Matt's voice in my head, "Refuse to get bitter."  Today, I hope you hear mine.  Refuse to get bitter.  That disappointment you're facing will affect your future, but you decide if that affect is positive or negative.  Choose wisely.

Refuse. To. Get. Bitter.

Friday, January 1, 2016

4 Simple Steps To Achieve Your Goals

Well, 2015 is history and 2016 is here.   I hope you're ready to make 2016 the best year ever.  If you haven't done any planning yet, I have a great (and free) tool for you to use, right here.  Let's assume you've done some planning work or you're about to.  Now is the moment of truth.  And the question for today is "What are you going to do with all those plans?"

I'll be honest.  This has been tough for me.  I've been guilty of being the guy who makes great plans with no real way to execute those plans.  But, not this year.  What has changed?  Just some simple and direct steps.  Here are a few I've taken over the last couple weeks to actually get me where I see myself being at the end of 2016.

  1. I've done the work of assessing where I am and where I want to be.  I set aside the time and kept the appointment with myself.  That's a big move in and of itself.  I wrote about that here.  
  2. I asked myself some powerful questions about who I wanted to be and what the answers to those questions imply.  With those tough questions answered, I set some audacious goals for 2016.  I'm not going to share my goals here, because I've read some pretty convincing stuff that suggests that sharing goals publicly tends to trick us into believing we've already achieved them.  I can say, from experience, that has been true for me. 
  3. I've themed my year.  Although I'm not sharing my goals publicly, I am excited to share my theme.  For me, 2016 is the year of "Hard Work and Discipline".  
  4. I've done the preparation to set myself up to achieve my goals.  Specifically, I mean that I've:
    • Scheduled repeating weekly time for every goal that requires regular time and attention. That's most of them.  If you don't know where to start, I'd recommend Google Calendar. I've used it for years and love it.
    • Scheduled weekly time to assess my progress toward my goals.  I can't achieve it if I don't measure it.  Neither can you.
    • Ordered and assembled all the books on my 2016 reading list.  I really can't imagine growing significantly without reading.  I had a few of the books on my list, but most needed to be ordered.  I ordered 10 books from Amazon this morning.  I'm excited to get reading and I'll be positing a book review here after I finish each of them.
These are the steps I've taken.  You can take the exact same steps.  The question is, will you? 2016 will be exactly what you make it.  Of course the future is not predicable and there will be some unforeseen obstacles and some some unforeseen opportunities.  But, by and large, we create our future based on what we do and don't do today.  Make 2016 great!

What are some questions you're wrestling with right now as you look at what your 2016 holds?  Leave a comment below.  I'd love to know what you're working on and working through.