Honest to God (Sermon)

In this message I share the 6 roadblocks to why we are not honest with God. I believe that if we were totally transparent with God we would experience greater levels of transformation. My college professor once said, “Honesty is not an end in itself, but a means to our own transformation.” In this sermon I shared various biblical examples of how we can become more authentic in our relationship with God and other people. For more of my heart on this subject, check out my book, “Honest to God“. I pray this is helpful for you!

Here is my preaching outline from the sermon, you are glad to take this and use it as you would like: Honest to God, Outline

Here is the script for my slides: Honest to God, Slide Script

Here are my slides from the message as well:

 

Creating a Work Culture Where People Want to Stay

great work post

Have you ever hated your place of work? Maybe you loved your job, but the place you perform the work is less than desirable. I’ve been there too and had to muscle through. If you relate to this struggle, this article is for you.

Or perhaps you are a manager and a leader in an organization. If so, your employees count on you to provide a positive work environment. If you fall short in this area, the results you are striving for may elude you, whether in a church or in a business. This article is for you too.

Here are some things that can help make your place of work the most desirable and the most productive possible. These principles are based on my own experience, some good Harvard Research, and insights I’ve gained from other business books I’ve read. When these elements exist, people not only stay, they also contribute to your overall mission.

Cast clear vision. Without vision, people perish. This is true for individuals, churches, and corporations. Vision is the thing that causes a person to make it through the mundane day-to-day in anticipation for the future. When vision is lacking, then laziness, gossip, and infighting can become the norm. A future goal gives the people in your organization something to fuel their efforts.

 Maintain great communication. When a leadership decision is made, managers and executives should immediately ask (1) “who does this affect?” and (2) “how should we tell them?” When you communicate with the people you are leading in a timely, effective, and personal manner, loyalty follows. Avoid spin or false transparency. Give your audience everything you can, as soon as you can. No one likes surprises unless it’s a party.

Care for them personally. Some of the best companies in the world care for employees in very personal ways. Whether it is through nap pods or monthly sponsored date nights for employees with their spouses, organizations should always look for opportunities to care for the people who keep the gears in motion. Compensation is a part of the picture. Provide adequate or above average salary and benefits. When we care for our employees, the impact is felt by their families and therefore reduces friction or any insubordination that could fester up. When my wife is happy with my workplace, I am a much better employee; the same is true for those I lead.

Provide encouragement from the top. I had a staff member tell me recently that he does not get a lot of encouragement from the top. He said, “I only hear from leadership when something is wrong.” I apologized profusely. This should never be the case. Cross-departmental encouragement is great, but nothing can replace encouragement from our supervisors. It is important that employees hear praise from the top for their achievements and hard work.

Pay for offices where people like to be. Who wants to go to work in an environment that they hate? I believe that everything from lighting to the coffee machine must be considered for the employee’s comfort. Do the basics: hire a janitorial service to take out the trash, get a water cooler, buy the right desks, make sure the internet and telephone services are up to speed. Go above and beyond! Provide a fridge with drinks and snacks, allow employees to work half-days at times in the summer so they can enjoy family time, offer nice holiday means, include generous maternity and paternity leave, etc. Some of the best companies go above and beyond the basics to ensure the working environment is a great place to be. The payoff is an increase in productivity as well as company or church loyalty.

Work hard to clarify expectations and provide a clear picture of what success looks like. When a person knows the goal they are shooting for, they experience a greater sense of satisfaction when they hit it. It is important that visionaries and managers within an organization clearly define expectations and goals. When we do so, we help our employees succeed. Without clear expectations, we breed anxiety. Who wants to work in a continual state of “I wonder if this is good enough”?

Provide people the opportunity to learn and grow. Employees may inevitably move on, so do all you can to help them be better when they leave than when they first came. Provide professional and personal development opportunities; Pay for them to take class, to learn a new skill, or to grow through a workshop or by reading a book. Set a budget and allow employees to spend a percentage of their time at work developing their personal skills.

How can you find greater fulfillment at work? Look for an organization that includes the qualities and opportunities listed. How can you retain quality employees and breed loyalty for your company or church? Apply the principles outlined. Culture matters!

Keeping Less So We Can Have More of Life

clear out postOne of my new favorite pastimes is to get rid of things. Over the last few decades of life, I have managed to collect boxes of keepsakes, paraphernalia and “I might use that someday…” stuff. I have literally filled my basement with who-knows-what. If we had a flood, I would not be able to tell the insurance adjuster what I lost, that is how meaningless the boxes of stuff had become.

I decided it was time to purge. Molly and I were ready to get rid of the things we were holding onto ridiculously. We didn’t want to make room for new stuff. We just wanted to make room. Space. Uncluttered and cleaned out.

We have now had two garage sales in a matter of three weeks. I’ve let things be sold for pennies on the dollar; my goal was not to make money but to make space. With each thing I sold, I realized how little I was actually attached to it. In fact, I found myself amazed that anyone else would even want it. The feeling of freedom that has come from this deep-cleaning has been wonderful. No only is my basement cleaned out, my mind and life seems to be more clear as well.

Stuff weights us down. Even the things we love have a way of cluttering our minds, emotions and relationships. The management of too much stuff can be more wearing on us than we acknowledge. It isn’t until we say “I am so sick of living like this!” that we finally clue in to the burden our possessions can become over time.

We must see the clutter in its right perspective. I read in McKeown’s Essentialism book that “we value things we own much more than what they are worth.” This statement had become true in my life. I valued things that had become worthless, be it old electronics or t-shirts from some event I thought was significant. Too often I saved stuff that didn’t need to be saved. I have to view these possessions for their real worth in order to get rid of them.

We must have an attitude of generosity. By holding on to stuff, I have an ownership attitude – “This is mine. I earned it.” When my perspective became “God gave me everything I have, I steward it,” then I am more quickly to give it or sell it to someone else that would have a better use for it. I’ve delivered bags of stuff to secondhand stores over the last few months. I may never see the person they helped, but I know it went somewhere better than where I had it.

When we let go of things, we will gain clarity of mind and have a less-hurried style of living. When my life is de-cluttered, I am more likely to have clarity at home. When my office is simplified to all I really need, I am able to think more clearly there as well. A life that is clean and clear will produce a mind that is the same.

By keeping less, we will keep better track of things we value. I’ve lost a lot of things over the last few months. Recently I lost my wedding ring, keys, wallet, drivers license, favorite cubs hat and sun glasses. The loss of all of this became a motivation for me to do some of extreme purging. I am convinced that when our lives are cleaned up, it is easier to keep track of things that we cherish.

Stuff is just that – stuff. There are people and purposes far greater than the stuff we acquire over life. Remember, we are pilgrims, just passing through. Holding too tightly to the things of this world will keep us from loving the place we are ultimately going – home with Christ!

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.
- Philippians 3:7 ESV

The Beginning of Wisdom (Acts 5:1-11)

God takes our integrity very seriously. In this message we look at the story of Ananias and Sapphira found in Acts 5:1-11. While God was interested in their generosity, he was much more interested in their character. He wanted them to be on His mission and honest in every way. My main walk away was this:

When we live in the fear of The Lord we yield fruits of integrity in ourselves, generosity towards others, and intimacy with God!

Here are my sermon resources, free for you to use:

07.19.14 Slide Script

07.19.14 YouVersion Script

07.19.14, Acts 5.1-11 Fear God, Outline v2

The Secret to a Highly Productive Day

morning post

What side of the bed did you wake up on?

Mornings are really important to me, so I guess you could say that even if I don’t wake up on the right side of the bed…I get there as soon as possible. I choose to start off the morning well because I have learned that it has a great impact on the rest of my day. I call it my morning ritual. It’s not a religious ritual, but rather the opportunity each day to live purposefully.

Consider the impact we could have on our world and on the world if we refine our morning routines to be more than a sleepy stupor.

I originally listened to a class taught by Michael Hyatt where he addressed the importance of stewarding the first moments of our day well. He had us examine what we do each morning—including make the bed, go to the bathroom, shower and get a cup of coffee. After an in-depth evaluation, he then walked us through a priceless exercise of laying out the essencial elements of each morning to ensure the best day possible. At first this felt laborious, but it has proven to be priceless.

For over six months I have lived with the routine I wrote in Michael Hyatt’s class. I don’t do it every morning, but nearly. The days where I neglect doing this vital process I find I am less productive, focused and connected to God.  Some mornings are more painful than others to wake up and get going, but I have never regretted doing it, I’ve only regret when I don’t it.

Here are examples of my ideal morning routine and the routine that takes the shortest amount of time:

Ideal Morning:

  •  Get Up: go to the bathroom, make bed, get water | 10 Min
  •  Be Still: and know that He is God (do this while making my pour over coffee) | 10 Min
  • Review and Clear: Answer my “Yesterday review” questions and clear mind  in Day One| 20 Min
  • Read the Bible | Highlight and take notes in the passage you read 10 Min
  • Journal: write about what God said to me from the Bible in handwritten journal | 10 Min
  • Prayer Time: Worship prayer off of what I read and prayer requests | 10 Min
  • Reading: Time to grow or learn by reading 10 pages of a book | 20 min
  • Touches and Thank You’s: Touch 1 counseling case, 1 friend, 1 staff and  1family member and write 1 thank you note | 10 Min
  • Prep and Pray: Look at calendar and to-do list and prep and pray through it | 15 Min
  • Fill and Review: tomorrow’s schedule and Must Do’s and social media | 10 Min
  • Family Morning Time: make breakfast, watch Today Show, chill with kid on the couch | 15 Min
  • Ready, Set, Go: shower, get dressed, pack and eat breakfast | 40 Min

TOTAL: 3 Hours. Walk away with a card that has a verse, people priorities and task priorities for that day

For the mornings where things need to be as condensed as possible:

  • Get Up: go to the bathroom, make bed, get water | 10 Min
  • Review and Clear: Yesterday review and clear mind | 20 Min
  • Bible Reading and Journal 1 Page | 10 Min
  • Prayer Time: Worship prayer off of what I read and prayer requests | 10 Min
  • Touches and Thank You’s: Touch a case, friend, staff and family memeber and write a thank you note | 10 Min
  • Prep and Pray: Look at calendar and to-do list and prep and pray through it | 15 Min
  • Ready, Set, Go: shower, get dressed, pack and eat breakfast | 40 Min

TOTAL: 2 Hours

I know that not everyone has 2 hours or more to prepare for the day…but take a look at what you do have and choose to optimize it. I rise at 5 or 6 each day to get my morning ritual in, and I have never regretted getting up early to do it.

Refine your morning to be as focused as possible. As Greg McKeown says, “Reach from something beside your phone first thing in the morning.” Don’t allow someone else to tell you how your day should go, before you first detox from yesterday and reconnect with God for today.

Psalm 143:8 — “Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life.” (NIV)

 

How to Love God Even When You Don’t Feel Like It

 Transcript:

We all have dreams and desires. For example, I would love to travel most of Europe, see the Grand Canyon, Write a best selling book and raise a great family.

I also have a deep desire to be close to God, but sometimes that desire gets pushed to the way side because of the other more tangible things in my life. If you too were honest, could you say the same thing?

Wanting to be closer to God is something that all of us should long for all of the time. Like a person who has not eaten in a while groans for a good meal, we too should deeply desire to feast on the presence of God. We must “desire the divine”. But what does that mean? What brings on this type of hunger? What causes us to desire God?

In the Bible in the book of Exodus, chapter 20, God commands the people to love Him. You’d think Israel, the people he was speaking to, would’ve felt as if God was forcing Himself upon them as He threatened their lives (and their kids lives and their grand kids lives and their great grand kids lives) if they loved anyone but Him.

But after all He had done for them, why would he have to ask them to love Him? Wouldn’t it be natural that they would love Him enough that nothing could sway their love?

Obviously not, because only 12 chapters later they couldn’t wait 40 days for the Lord before their love grew fickle and they were off making a golden calf to worship.

Also in Mark 12 we see Jesus reinforce the idea that we are not to love anyone beside the Lord. He cannot be compared to anyone or anything. He is the only one that can redeem us, forgive us, remove our guilt, bring us true joy… and the list goes on. And we are to love this God with all our heart, mind and strength.

God demands all of our love, but why would we give more love to anyone or anything else but Him?

Yes, He is a jealous lover, but rightfully so. Anything we start to adore more than Him is an idol in our lives and must be removed. Exodus 20 verse 5 says we are not to worship “Anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.”

Sure, we may not go make literal statues of things and worship them, but metaphorically we take things we like and make them into a grand object of our affection. Even though Israel knew the consequences for doing this, they did it anyway. Even though we know the consequences for worshiping the other “gods” in our life, we do it anyway.

How could we be so foolish and selfish? Let’s pray now that God will remove the idols in our life and give us true devotion to Him.

We must pray, that God will give us the strength, understanding, and love, to respond to His jealousy with total devotion. With steadfast hearts and a lot of courage, we can have us the furry of Moses to destroy to dust the idols in our life.

We must mimic the faithfulness and devoted love of our God. When our understanding of commitment grows so with our knowledge and faith. How great would it be if God said to us, because of our pursuit of Him, the same thing Christ said to the scribe in Mark 12:34 – “You are not Far from the Kingdom of God.”

Keep pursuing God and desire the divine.

Is Your Criticism Having the Opposite Effect You Hoped For?

Crit-post
Some of the kindest people in my life have said the hardest things. They hoped to cause a change, but instead caused grief. Maybe you have felt this way too. Whether it was a family member, mentor, boss or loved one—they say something to “Help” but they only cause hurt. Even if their words are true, their tone seemed to get in the way and cause a toe-stepping-catastrophe on the dance floor of life.

I have had those conversations that suddenly turned sour. Most of the time, I never saw it coming: when you love and trust the other person, you don’t have guards or defense tactics at hand, nor should you. But when suddenly they have a “few things they want to share with you” it can knock you off kilter and feel frustrating.

The way we say words is as important as the words we say. If a person’s tone stays critical, there is bound to be heartache for all those involved. The person on the attack may feel better because he has released anger and got things off of his chest, but the defender is defeated and eventually closed off to the words that are being spoken. Therefore, when we are giving criticism, we must make sure we are keeping these things in mind in order to have our heart heard:

1. Tone is everything. I’m sure you’ve heard it said that words are only 70% of what we say, the rest is in tone and body language. The way we say things is just as important as what we say. If our tone (or even the silence) is conveying frustration, anger, or a lack of outlook for my best interest, as the hearer, I am going to close down. We all do.

2. Don’t ask questions if you don’t intended to help find the answer. There is nothing like criticizing questions to turn a trusted relationship into a hostile court scene. It is unfair for you to corner a person who trusts you and lob loaded questions their way. No matter how angry you are, or how badly you want to prove a point, you must not begin a conversation with loaded questions. This will taken them off guard and therefore cause conflict in communication quickly. If you do this, the other person’s trust in you as a safe place will melt away like wax on a summer day.

If you have questions to ask, maybe to gain a clearer perspective before making a point, do so with care. Explain that you need to understand a few things before you give input. If they are not answering the questions well, offer to help find the right answers either right then or at another appointed time.

3. Assure them of your believe in them and you are longing to see their growth. In a conversation full of hard truth, give hope. Say things like, “But please know I want to help you with this…” or “a few small tweaks in this area will have a big impact, and I will be here cheering you on.” Let them know that you have their best interest in mind.

4. Set some clear “next time” goals and commit to checking back in or walking along side. The best thing you can do after a hard truthful conversation is to follow it up. If you go on acting like it never happened, you may only cause the hearer to lose trust in you (yet again) and forego any platform you had in his or her life. Set some goals and check-in points for both of you. Write them down and do what you commit to doing for the sake of their improvement next time.

Mr. Miyage was hard on Daniel-son in Karate Kid, yet he did these four things very well. Paul was faithful to do this with Timothy and others in the Bible. You can do this and have a greater impact than you ever expected to have by simply saying the hard things. Every mentor should give criticism with a “let me help you” attitude to have a lasting impact.

“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,” – Ephesians 4:15 

Preserved by Him, Phased By Nothing

Transcript: 

“I Promise, I promise I promise.”

We often will say these words wether we mean them or not. My grandma use to say that we make “Pie Crust Promises.” A Pie crust promise is something that is easily made and easily broken.

But that’s us. God doesn’t do that. When he makes a promise, he keeps it every time. without fail. He made hundreds of promises in the Bible with his People, and he came true and is still coming true on them, always.

I was recently reflecting back on the promises that he gave to Joshua in the Bible. Here was this leader in the Bible that was most likely devastated at one point because his mentor and father figure, and leader was dead. Yet, God turned to Joshua after Moses’s death and sad, “You lead… But I promise you that I will be with you.”

In fact, in Joshua chapter 1, verses 3 through 9, God made 5 promises and in the end He kept good on all of them. First he promised Joshua that he would keep his promise to Moses. Everywhere he said he would give them land, he would give it to them through Joshua.

Second, He promised that “No one would stand against you”. How would you like whip that promise out on your enemy, boss or someone out to get you…”God is on my side, sorry, no one will stand against me!” Yep, well that was true for Joshua. He defeated impossible armies and cities.

Then he promised Joshua that he would be with him wherever he went. That was perhaps the most practical of all of the promises – the fact that God would never, ever leave His side! Wow! Ultimately, it was because of God’s presence with Joshua that he was able to be strong and courageous in the hardest moments of his life.

Fourth God promised Joshua that he would have success where ever he went, as long as he stayed close to the commandments of God.

Finally, he gave a promise and a command, wrapped in one: the promise was ‘You have nothing to fear!” so he told him, “Do not be afraid, don’t get discouraged. Keep your head up.” He could do this because the other promises would come true.

So for you and I, we too can rest on the promises of God. He has said that if we believe in Him and walk in His truth that He will be with us – no matter where we go.

And listen, there is nothing greater that God can give us than Himself!

Engage in the Fight Against Human Trafficking

There are hundreds of causes that we can engage with on a daily basis. While they are all important, few deal with human dignity and the preservation of the image of God like the fight against human trafficking. Statistics tells that every 30 seconds another human is a victim of human trafficking (that means that 2 people have become victims just while you read this paragraph). It is time to fight.

Here are some ways you can get involved:

  • CALL AND RESPONSE: This is the Made In A Free World project, striving to gather individuals, groups and awareness to help dispel slavery in the world.
  • FREE FOR LIFE: Is on a mission to The rescue and restoration of victims of Human Trafficking and the elimination of modern-day slavery.
  • LOVE 146.ORG: This organizations striving to do away with child trafficking once and for all. Nothing less.
  • NOT FOR SALE CAMPAIGN: Humans are not products. This campaign is striving to make sure no human is ever sold and reduced to nothing more than merchandise.
  • POLARIS PROJECT: This project is striving to organize all people and resources possible to fight against slavery and human trafficking in the world.
  • THE A21 CAMPAIGN: This groups is prevent trafficking through awareness and education. In schools, orphanages, and universities, we have created presentations and curriculum to educate potential victims of trafficking.

Training I Pursued to Preach Better

lcpcpost My job is to help people. While all jobs have some bad days, this is one that I enjoy even on the worst days.

However, I know that my primary calling in life is to preach. I believe that this is the reason why I was created (it has taken me years to even get to the point of saying that – but I am sure of it now). If I live to love God, I believe that preaching is the best way I can do that and how I can bring the most glory to Him. So if I am called to preach, why did I get trained as a Biblical Counselor and Life Coach? Here’s why.

  1. To love God more. The best counselors are first counselees. By being trained I have to be study, write and read in addition to doing the life coaching exercises I ask others to do. By reading and doing these things I am growing personally. When I grow in my own love for God and understanding of how to apply the Bible, I will surly be better in the pulpit.
  2. I am driven to be a better husband and dad. Christian life coaching and biblical counseling drives the counselee to have a deeper and better life because of their core beliefs in God. While this may include behavior modification, much of life coaching is connecting with what matters most. By being a life coach, I had grown in my drive and desire to be a faithful dad and husband. This helps my whole life preach and keeps my own household in order.
  3. It makes me a better leader. I believe that leading others means that you must care for those who are following you. This was my original drive for getting trained as a biblical counselor. While I thought it would make me a better pastor, I knew it would make me a more authentic and caring as a leader. Then as a preacher, I am communicating with an authoritative voice the commands and instruction of God’s Word. If I can be a great leader out of the pulpit, it will make me a better preaching and leader when I am in the pulpit.
  4. It drives me to spend time with my sheep and helps me know better how to apply God’s Word to their life. I remember getting in the car with a man in Texas as I arrived to speak at his event and he said, “You smell like sheep.” “What do you mean?” I questioned. He said, in just the few minutes we’ve been together I can tell that you love your people and you spend time with them. This was a compliment. I want to spend time with people and by doing so be able to better exegete their lives and connect God’s word to their heart.
  5. Counseling and coaching is a form of preaching. Think about it. When I sit with a  couple or an individual, I am listening to them in order to better apply the truth of Scripture. Then I am listening and relying on the Holy Spirit to guide me. I will open the Bible to apply and exegete various passages for them. Then we will craft the main walk aways and what needs to be done next for the sake of life change. That is also what we do in preaching.

So as you can see, there are some clear benefits to being trained in these areas. I hope to continue to be trained in counseling and life coaching for the foreseeable future so that I continue to be the best preacher possible, for the glory of God.