Monthly Archives: April 2008

The necessity of Joy

I think that joy is an indispensible asset for every leader. It is so easy to get caught up in the intensity of our responsibilities. The weight we carry will, if we are not careful, sink us. I kind of consider joy to be my life vest. When the waves get too high, I hang on to joy for dear life! It keep me floating.

Joy will …
Keep you focused when things go wrong.
Provide the courage to stay with it until the job is accomplished.
Make you aware of the simple blessings.
Help you tell better jokes.
Promote peace of mind, well being and balance.

Without joy …
Life will get you down.
The mole hills will become mountains.
You lose sleep.
You’re no fun to be around.
Your smiles are fake – and people know.

Nehemiah 8:10 “Don’t be sad, because the joy of the LORD will make you strong.” (NCV)


My Top 10 Leadership Challenges – in no particular order

Maintaining focus in face of criticism.
Impatience when there is no perceivable progress.
Limited resources (money, time, people).
Dealing with uncommitted people.
Being too influenced by negative people.
Getting bogged down with minutiae.
Impatience with slow adapters.
Arrogance that I have the answers.
Keeping people (or getting people) motivated.

OK, I know that’s only nine, but I am enjoying an especially good day!


62.4%!

The divorce rate in our county is currently hovering at 62.4% which means that 6 out of 10 couples getting married today in Palm Beach County will fail in their marriage. This stat is quite a bit higher than the national average which is less than 50% divorce rate. It is data like this that fuels my vision for ministry. Families are in crisis. We have to do something.

What makes this come home to me is that I know people, have friends who are giving up on their marriage. People who are Christ followers. People who sit in the church most weeks listening to our teaching about life and the Bible and how it is all supposed to work. Apparently, what we are currently doing is not working. It’s like we have lost respect for marriage and the commitment it requires. We have bought into the lie that divorce is the easy way out. In reality, there are some really hurting people out there; in our county, over 60% of them.

On Friday, I was part of a larger groups of pastors and spiritual leaders in our community that signed a document which pledges us to do something about the divorce rate. The Palm Beach County Healthy Marriage Initiative is an effort to strengthen local church and marriages by providing county-wide standards for performing weddings. The eleven points of the document are as follows:

1. Promote a healthy and biblical model of marriage.
2. Require a minimum of 4 months of preparation.
3. Promotes sexual abstinence outside of marriage.
4. Present the evidence of the negative impact of cohabitation on marriage.
5.Require a minimum of 4 premarital sessions, utilizing both the scriptures and a premarital inventory; and at least two post-marital counseling sessions within the first year of marriage.
6. Enrich existing marriages with an annual event in the local church using videos, marital inventories, or outside speakers.
7. Train “back from the brink” couples whose own marriages once nearly failed to mentor those in current crisis.
8. Reconcile the separated or abandoned with a course, “Marriage 911”
9. Enlist, train, and equip a support system of mature married couples to serve as Marriage Mentors to engaged couples, newlyweds, and those experiencing marital difficulties.
10. Create Stepfamily Support Groups to provide a place of prayer, encouragement and hope to stepfamilies.
11. Partner with other congregations and organizations to share resources and create a positive climate in which marriages can thrive.

Although these standards will be tough to uphold, I am all for the effort. I’m sure some prospective couples will get really ticked but our marriages and families need some help. Maybe we can see a turnaround in the future.


Interesting quotes on world change


The following quotes all come from a promotional piece I received pushing an upcoming conference at Ginghamsburg Church in Ohio. The Change the World Conference is in October and looks like something worthwhile. While it is too early for me to make a commitment to go, I loved some of the quotes by some of the featured speakers and leaders and thought you may also enjoy them. Though some may be a bit controversial, they will provoke some thought and dialogue.

Check these out . . .

Christians must act as the moral conscience for both sides of the isle, always advocating for peace with justice and the orphan and widow. The Gospel is good news for the poor. If it doesn’t cover the poor, it is not the Gospel! – Mike Slaughter

Why are so many religious people arguing about the origin of the {human} species, but so few are concerned about the extinction of the species? –Brian McLaren

Two of the great hungers in our world today are the hunger for spirituality and the hunger for social justice. The connection between the two is the one the world is waiting for, especially the new generations. And the first hunger will empower the second. –Jim Wallis

Christianity’s next reformation…will draw upon what is best in both fundamentalism and liberalism by holding together the evangelical and social gospels, by combining a love of scripture with a willingness to see both its humanity as well as its Divinity, and by coupling a passionate desire to follow Jesus Christ with a reclamation of His heart toward those whom religious people have often rejected. This reformation will be led by people who are able to see the gray in a world of black and white. –Adam Hamilton

…in the minds of many nonreligious people in America, Christianity is not associated with love or grace or justice, but with a particular view of homosexuality, or a particular stance on abortion…Christianity has become a wedge that drives people from Christ, rather than drawing them to him…There are a growing number of Christians who believe the Gospel calls us to be healers and bridge builders, not dividers. – Adam Hamilton

The Protestant theology of many Americans has reduced salvation by faith to a passive and easy “believism,” giving the impression that all a person needs to be saved is a right theology…The evidence of true conversion is a commitment to the work of Jesus. –Mike Slaughter

Faith is not just for the new life, the hereafter: it is precisely intended to transform the world in the here and now – otherwise, most of the Bible makes no sense at all. –Jim Wallis

Jesus’ message is not actually about escaping this troubled world for heaven’s blissful shores, as is properly assumed, but instead is about God’s will being done on this troubled earth as it is in heaven…The popular domesticated Jesus, who has become little more than a chrome-plated hood ornament on the guzzling Hummer of Western civilization can…be replaced with a more radical, saving and, I believe, real Jesus. –Brian McLaren

The time has passed when we can define ourselves on the tired and old labels of conservative or liberal, evangelical or charismatic, Catholic or Protestant. All who have faith in Jesus belong to Him. Everyone who serves the mission is a follower of His. It is time for all of us to change the world together. –Mike Slaughter


The Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards

I am reading Jonathan Edwards’ Basic Writings and am blown away by his Resolutions document. If you get a chance to read these Resolutions, keep in mind that he wrote this stuff while he was in college in the early 1700’s. I had resolutions in college, too, but we won’t talk about that now.

Sorry for the massive post but I thought I would share a few that jumped out at me as being especially applicable:

Edwards starts with the statement: BEING SENSIBLE THAT I AM UNABLE TO DO ANYTHING WITHOUT GOD’ S HELP, I DO HUMBLY ENTREAT HIM BY HIS GRACE TO ENABLE ME TO KEEP THESE RESOLUTIONS, SO FAR AS THEY ARE AGREEABLE TO HIS WILL, FOR CHRIST’ S SAKE.
5. Resolved, never to lose one moment of time; but improve it the most profitable way I possibly can.
6. Resolved, to live with all my might, while I do live.
7. Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if it were the last hour of my life.
10. Resolved, when I feel pain, to think of the pains of martyrdom, and of hell.
12. Resolved, if I take delight in it as a gratification of pride, or vanity, or on any such account, immediately to throw it by.
13. Resolved, to be endeavoring to find out fit objects of charity and liberality.
14. Resolved, never to do any thing out of revenge.
17. Resolved, that I will live so, as I shall wish I had done when I come to die.
19. Resolved, never to do any thing, which I should be afraid to do, if I expected it would not be above an hour, before I should hear the last trump.
25. Resolved, to examine carefully, and constantly, what that one thing in me is, which causes me in the least to doubt of the love of God; and to direct all my forces against it.
28. Resolved, to study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly and frequently, as that I may find, and plainly perceive myself to grow in the knowledge of the same.
37. Resolved, to inquire every night, as I am going to bed, wherein I have been negligent,- what sin I have committed,-and wherein I have denied myself;-also at the end of every week, month and year
52. I frequently hear persons in old age, say how they would live, if they were to live their lives over again: Resolved, that I will live just so as I can think I shall wish I had done, supposing I live to old age.
67. Resolved, after afflictions, to inquire, what I am the better for them, what am I the better for them, and what I might have got by them.
70. Let there be something of benevolence, in all that I speak.

Anybody else feeling challenged???


The Prosperity Gospel

Who doesn’t want to be rich? I certainly wouldn’t mind it. But how much of a place should this desire occupy in our hearts?

The North American church is conflicted. Consider the following research/stats:

61% of Christians believe that God wants people to be financially prosperous.
48% of Christians believe Jesus was not rich and we should follow His example.
49% believe Christians don’t give enough to the poor.
57% do not believe 10% is the minimum God expects Christians to give.
(source: David Van Biema and Jeff Chu, “Does God want You to be Rich?” Time Magazine 6/18/06)

New research released by The Barna Group reveals that in 2007 just 9% of adult Americans who are Christians gave away 10 percent of their income to places of worship or nonprofits (tithing).

Now consider what scripture teaches:
Ecclesiastes 5:10 Those who love money will never have enough. How meaningless to think that wealth brings true happiness! (NLT)

Hebrews 13:5 Don’t be obsessed with getting more material things. Be relaxed with what you have. Since God assured us, “I’ll never let you down, never walk off and leave you,” (MSG)

It’s time for us to get this thing straight. We have to get off the defensive side when it comes to our money. There has to be a more open atmosphere available for us to deal with this topic. But for those of you who wish I would mind my own business in this regard, I will borrow part of a posting from my friend Chris Goins “I love the way Chris Hodges of Church of the Highlands describes his desire for his congregation as it relates to giving: “Don’t listen to me! Listen to God!””


Happy Earth Day!


I am risking coming across like a tree hugger but it is obvious to me that we have to focus more attention on issues like the environment. It seems that many Christ-followers are a little behind when it comes to dialogue and action regarding ways in which we can take better care of the creation. This is a big deal in our country. While preservation of the earth and its resources should receive more attention from those who follow Christ, I see an even bigger issue at hand.

Since our culture is keenly attuned to matters of ecology, we can easily appear disconnected and aloof if we are not proactive in addressing these concerns. How can we say that that we care for people, for their well being and for the future of their families if we ignore topics like environmental responsibility? I think there is credibility to be gained if we will speak and act in well balanced ways regarding the environment.

What will it hurt if we recycle some plastic, save a little water or drive a hybrid car? Just maybe along with making the world a cleaner place for the next generation, we may also earn the right to address our culture on more important topics, like eternity.

Happy Earth Day!