When All Else Fails (Acts 6:8-15)

We all long for peace, especially in times of turmoil. When our life is under pressure or upset in someway, we often do whatever we can in our own strength to gain control. In Acts 6:8-15 we see the early church member, Stephen, standing still in the face of death. From this passage, I strive to show how we too can be confident in God’s sovereignty no matter the circumstances.

Here is my Sermon Outline (what I take in the pulpit): When All Else Fails, Outline

Here are my study notes for this passage: Study Notes on Acts 6.8-15

My Slides:

 

Advice for Pastor and Preachers from Alistair Begg

It was my privilege to be able to interview long-time pastor and preaching , Alistair Begg, about ministry and preaching. As a young preacher, I was so enriched by all he had to say. His humor, coupled with his wisdom, brought a compelling case for pastoral integrity, preaching with authority, and acting with humility. This interview is worth every minute of your time; you’ll be thinking about his statements for days.

Click here for more great content from Alistair and the 6:4 conference. 

Our Great Reward is God Himself (Acts 7:54-8:3)

Suffering is never something we desire, but to suffer well should be the desire of our heart. In this message we looked at the last seconds of Stephen’s life in Acts 7:54-60. We discovered strategies for remaining faithful to God even when faithfulness to God doesn’t make sense. Also, as we looked at Saul’s persecution of the church, we understood that God’s purposes are never spoiled.

Here are my sermon resources for the taking:

My sermon outline (what I take on stage): 09.06.14, Acts 7.54-8.3, Our Greatest Reward, Outline v2

My sermon study notesStudy Notes on Acts 7.54-8.3

Small group homework: 09-4-14_Acts_7-54-8-3_HOMEWORK

My sermon slides:

6 Questions Every Accountability Partner Should Ask

trees post

What would a forest be if it were not packed with trees? Imagine a forest of only 10 trees… 5 trees… 2 trees… That’s not a forest at all.

A forest is a good metaphor of what the Christian life is like. We don’t have to stand alone. In fact, God doesn’t want us too. He has even created a “Family” – the Church – for us to stay connected to and grow along side. Galatians 6 tells us to “Bear one another’s burdens.” It means that when we see someone that is struggling with life or sin, we stand by their side and try and pull them closer to Christ. Paul uses imagery that brings a drowning person to mind. Imagine life as one big swim meet and everyone is trying to make it to the end, but even before that every one is trying to stay afloat. If you look over and see someone that is drowning, do just swim around them to avoid their splash. Help them… but only if you can. “Keep watch for yourself.” It could be really easy for you to get pulled in. If you are weak in an area then don’t swim after them, for you will only make the situation worse… get someone else who maybe stronger spiritually or have more wisdom to be able to help them.

I’ve never been a morning person. Rarely do I get up on the first sound of the alarm or have the discipline not to hit snooze. However, today was different.

This morning was my first meeting with a small group of guys. The five of us sat in a bustling coffee shop with open Bibles and open hearts. We discussed last Sunday’s sermon and spent time reflecting on life lessons in it for all of us. There was nothing super spiritual about our time; just a few guys learning lessons together and holding each other accountable for our walk with the Lord.

After some time in the Word, we asked each other these questions:

1.       Have you been spending time in God’s Word and in prayer this week?  If so, how?

3.       Have you exposed your mind to sexually inappropriate things?

4.       Have you been above reproach with you finances?

5.       Have you been taking care of your body?

6.       Have you just lied?

 The last question is brilliant. It may not have been that any of us lied directly, but #6 defiantly held made each of ask, did I just share the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?

I encourage you to get a group like this. Meeting in the morning (or whenever) with a few others who truly long to deepen their walk with Christ will be time well spent.  It can be that kind of jolt for your soul that says, WAKE UP SOUL! It’s time do live life to the fullest!

7 Essential Ways I Balance Work and Family

Nik WallendaAs a leader and pastor, one of my greatest struggles to is balancing time between work and family.  Everyday this is under attack as the demands of the urgent things in my life try to eclipse the important. In order to ensure that I am staying balanced, below I have listed 7 disciplines I maintain regularly.

Ways I Am Maintaining Balance

# 1 – I only have meetings during set blocks of time (Monday 1-5, Tuesday 9-12, Wednesday 9-1, Thursday 1-5). This allows me to have other blocks of time so that I can actually do my work during work hours instead of having to take it home.

# 2 – I rise early, but stay at home to be with and help out more in the mornings. I used to get up early and leave the house. Now I stay at home until the others are awake so I can see them and help prepare for the day. This gives us family time and helps Molly (especially while she is still working).

[Read more...]

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)