All Lives Matter, So Make Yours Count

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If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.  But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again (Philippians 1:22-26).

What’s the first word here?  “If.”  Consider what faced Paul?  “If I am to live in the flesh…” meaning, “If I am to escape the possible execution I’m facing.”  I’ve been at the bedside of many who have been sick and/or dying.  When the possibility of death comes along, the vast majority of us approach this season with anxiety and dread.  We ask all sorts of questions about the life we will leave behind.  Paul could have asked these same questions about what would happen with his churches and those he won to Christ.

Our present life entails fruitful labor for Christ.  In verse 22, we read, “If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell.”  If Paul lived, then praise God—fruitful labor for him!  He would continue to tell others of the good news of Christ.

Compare him with the likes of Hezekiah.  In Isaiah, chapters 38-39, King Hezekiah was on the point of death.  He did not approach the prospect of death well!

And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came to him, and said to him, “Thus says the Lord: Set your house in order, for you shall die, you shall not recover.” 2 Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, 3 and said, “Please, O Lord, remember how I have walked before you in faithfulness and with a whole heart, and have done what is good in your sight.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.
4 Then the word of the Lord came to Isaiah: 5 “Go and say to Hezekiah, Thus says the Lord, the God of David your father: I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. Behold, I will add fifteen years to your life. 6 I will deliver you and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria, and will defend this city.

Hezekiah wept at the thought of death.  He wanted to stay here.  But those 15 years that God gave him were tragic years.  At the beginning of Isaiah 39, a Babylonian delegate asked to see the Temple, the armory, the storehouses, everything.  Hezekiah was proud, so he allowed it.  Isaiah responded:

5 Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the Lord of hosts: 6 Behold, the days are coming, when all that is in your house, and that which your fathers have stored up till this day, shall be carried to Babylon. Nothing shall be left, says the Lord. 7 And some of your own sons, who will come from you, whom you will father, shall be taken away, and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.” 8 Then Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “The word of the Lord that you have spoken is good.” For he thought, “There will be peace and security in my days.”

He wanted to stay in order to glorify himself rather than God. Even when tragedy would hit, he took comfort in that this tragedy wouldn’t happen as long as he was alive—even if it affected his sons and people.

How different are Hezekiah than Paul!  But if we were to take inventory of our hearts in our culture, and even those who name the name of Christ, we identify more with Hezekiah, don’t we?  Some of you know that I’ve just started working on a team the North American Missions Board helping churches that are within two years of dying not to, well, die.  They’ve gotten to a position of looking inward more than outward, ministering more to themselves rather than to the changing communities around them.  Many of these churches would rather die than to change.  As long as they have comfort in their own community, they are fine–for at least there is peace and security in their days.

We wish for fruitful labor, that is, labor that bears fruit!  Make your life count, dear Christian! Do you believe that God’s favor is found in peace and security in your days–or fighting the good fight of faith for the eternal security of others?

 

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Challies Reading Challenge

 

Not only do we wish to read the Bible more as Christians, but I’m fairly certain that as Christians many of us wish to read more books in general. I was looking over the books I read in 2015, and I found myself getting into a rut. It was time for a change.

While I did read a number of theology books, I also found myself reading a lot of leadership books. When it came to personal reading, I read either one of two things American history specifically the Civil War, and the history and or tactics of soccer. I need to diversify!  I can’t get into a routine I’m just reading things that I enjoy.  I also need to make sure that I’m reading books from a wide range of topics and genres that will also be good for me.

Enter the 2016 Reading Challenge from Tim Challies.  He has developed reading plans for light readers to voracious readers.  With this, he provides suggestions for reading different genres.

Take a look and see what you think.  What other type of book reading plans do you have?

 

 

How Efficiency in Your Organization Helps Fulfill the Great Commandment

I just finished Matt Perman‘s book What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things DoneThis stands as one of the best, if not the best, book I’ve read on productivity. It’s building on David Allen’s Getting Things Done, but putting a gospel-centered productivity aspect to this. I love how he showed that being productive is not just about doing things for you in a self-centered way, but is an act of loving your neighbor. That chimed with me, and may well be the final catalyst for being productive.  Below is a choice quote from the book (p. 303) about why being effective and productive is not for selfish ambition, but actually is about ‘loving your neighbor.’

How does individual effectiveness lead to the greater effectiveness of the organization? It’s not simply that by doing your work better everyone around you gets more done and thus the organization gets more done (though that is true).

It is also because personal effectiveness has an impact on the spirit and culture of an organization, creating an environment that calls forth the best from everyone. This raises the sights of everybody and creates an environment that calls forth their best. This is good for everyone individually and for the organization. As Drucker puts it, “As executives work toward becoming effective, they raise the performance level of the whole organization. They raise the sights of people —their own as well as others. As a result, the organization not only becomes capable of doing better. It becomes capable of doing different things and of aspiring to different goals” (Drucker, The Effective Executive, p. 170-71).

Thus, “executive effectiveness is our one best hope to make modern society productive economically and viable socially” (Drucker, 170).

This book will stay close by on my desk for the foreseeable future.  It provides concrete measures to help you sort through various actions and projects that will come your way.

I couldn’t recommend this book highly enough.  Blending the purpose of preaching, pastoring, and productivity is what this blog is all about–and will help all leaders lead their organization more joyfully and less stressfully.  Who knows?  We may spend some time going through this book chapter by chapter.

Using Evernote Has Been a Gamechanger

I love using Evernote.  This productivity site syncs between online and apps to keep all of my ideas regarding sermons, strategy, leadership, and any other major actions or projects that are on the burner.  I’ve also started using this to organize tasks and set reminders.

And now, I see that Google Chrome includes an Evernote Web Clipper, which is similar to Pocket in that this is able to clip information from a web page and send it to Evernote for future reference.  You can watch the video.

Evernote has three levels to choose from: basic (free), Evernote Plus ($24.99/year) and Evernote Premium ($49.99/year).  You can read up on what each of these levels offer.

Do you use Evernote?  If so, what do you think of it?  What’s your favorite feature?  If not, what app or program do you use to capture information, provide reminders, or work on projects?

 

Six Ways to Use Vacations to Help Preaching, Passion, and Productivity

20140920_160118_AndroidIt’s interesting how the subject of vacation for ministers has been approached over the years.  In Charles Bridges’ classic work on ministry matters, he rejects the notion that ministers should ever have any sort of recreation, even taking a day off during the week.  Spurgeon was another workaholic, having started and headed up over 60 organizations during his ministry at the Metropolitan Tabernacle.

Now, we look at how important vacation, recreation, and even days off are for the minister.  Ministers are casualties in the landscape of evangelicalism—1500 ministers are leaving the ministry every month!  The reasons are myriad: burn out, hurt from parishioners, moral failure, etc., ad infinitum, ad nauseum.  Wayne Cordeiro and others have written books on how ministers are prone to divorces, depression, anger, fear, and numerous other maladies that affect their psyche and their close relationships.  Cordeiro’s book Leading on Empty tracks his personal trek through these severe valleys and the systems he put in place for accountability and recreation so he’s running on full potential and energy as needed.

I’ve posted before that ministers living in a perpetual state of guilt—at least every minister goes through that season.  He spends time in ministry with sermon preparation, visitation to the sick and homebound and those in the hospital—but that means time away from your family than most ‘normal’ families have (whatever ‘normal’ means).  But then he spends time with your family (day at the park, weekend in the mountains, week with grandparents), he finds himself having a hard time pulling away from church matters.  He emails, calls periodically, texts a parishioner or a member of your staff to stay on top of things.  He’s had one major event happen while he were gone on vacation or a missions trip—he just can’t handle another.

So can a minister of a church, where a love for his members accompanied with the anxieties that compile daily (2 Corinthians 11:28) truly have a vacation?  That’s something I am going to pray about and explore without Internet or e-mail, both of which help but also significantly hinder productivity and, yes, even critical thinking.

We’ll see what God shows us during this time.  I’m looking forward to it immensely.  So this is what I’m going to do next time I vacation:

  1. Trust my associate pastor, ministry staff, and deacons to handle the ministry very capably when I’m away–which I know they will do.
  2. (HT: Mark Combs) I will uninstall all my social media apps from my phone (Facebook, Hootsuite, and E-mail) in an effort to break the habit of checking my phone all too frequently when I should be with family, friends, and my Heavenly Father.
  3. I will watch what I eat–even as I know I’ll go to White Castle, Cracker Barrel, and a myriad of family functions and BBQs.
  4. I will continue to exercise. I’ve redeveloped a love for running, thanks to the C25K app.  I’m on vacation from my work, not from my health.
  5. I will attend a worship service with my family while away. I need to hear the Word, even as I preach the Word hundreds of times per year.
  6. I will bring books that may or may not have to do with my vocation as pastor.  Will I bring my Bible?  Absolutely–and I’ll read through the Psalms (yes, I’m preaching on those when I return), but I’ll do this devotionally for sure. A leadership book?  Sure!  Harper Lee’s new book?  Still debating.  A soccer book?  Inverting the Pyramid: The History of Soccer Tactics by Jonathan Wilson sounds excellent. Os Guinness’ Fool’s Talk: Recovering the Art of Christian Persuasion?  Well, maybe just one preaching book! (OK, OK, I may not bring all of those, but when leaders are readers, you’ll see why reading is a great way to relax and sharpen!

What a necessity there is in being intentional about your vacations!

What ways do you use your vacations to help relax and sharpen?