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Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

I recently read the words of a long-time pastor who has left the ministry.  There are many factors that contributed to his decision to escape – some of which will most likely be the subject of future posts.

But something he said about his life outside of vocational ministry has stuck with me.  I believe it has continued to occupy space in my thoughts because I can relate to what he said.  He made the statement that now that he is no longer involved in vocational ministry, he now has time to reflect.

Worship BWMy initial reaction to his words was one of surprise.  The role of the vocational pastor, I smugly thought to myself, is to lead a congregation by spending time daily seeking God’s guidance and reflecting on what God is doing and saying.  But even as I write these words here, I feel hypocrisy’s hot breath on my neck.  I wish I could say that I live up to the role I just outlined two sentences ago.  But the truth is; there is always something to occupy my thoughts.  There are pressures both self-imposed and imposed by others that drive my actions and thoughts much of the time.

It would be possible to go through an entire week or even month without spending any time at all truly reflecting on God and his provisions and plan.  But lest this post be seen as a fragile attempt to gain sympathy – let me turn the tables.

How about you?

Do you spend time reflecting on God’s activity in your life?  Do you read his word and spend time actually thinking about what it says?   Or do we read God’s word, and then check it off our To Do list and move on to bigger and better things?

Our world, particularly in America, is driven by the illusion that busyness is good for business.  But when do we take time to think – to reflect?  How often do we miss God’s best for us because we aren’t listening or only half-listening to his words?

Take time to reflect today!

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It’s Monday and the beginning of a new week – full of possibility and opportunity.  How will you use the next 7 days?  Will it be just another 168 hours or will some of those hours be special?

You have the option to sit back and go through this week, business as usual, numb to the world and let life happen to you.

OR

You could live the next 168 hours intentionally.  This could be the most significant week of the year so far!  What will you do with your time this week that will impact your life and the lives of all you encounter?  Make It Happen

What is the first step?

Your first step should be turning to God and listening to his prompting.  Spending time with him and allowing him to arrange your To Do List will make all the difference.  Then go out and live the next 7 days with intention and passion!

Be a blessing today!

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Yesterday, we greeted pastors and their wives from all over Juarez, Mexico and the Chihuahua valley to a hotel here in Juarez.  For over a decade my partner has been calling pastors together for a time of fellowship, instruction and leadership development and the event has grown.  Several years ago, I joined him in this effort as we began to refine the focus of the meeting.

Opening 2016

For the past several years the event has focused on spiritual formation and marriage enrichment.  Last year we grew it from a two day, one night event to three days with two nights in the hotel.  The experience is a gift (free of charge) to the pastors and wives who have stuck it out and continue to minister in one of the most difficult and dangerous cities in the world.

Pastors are wired with compassion and called to give themselves for others.  But rarely do pastors have an opportunity to receive.  This event is that opportunity.

This year, we have 36 couples in attendance.  Our theme is Knowing Jesus.  We will remind them of the difference between knowing about Jesus and actually knowing him and the importance that difference makes in our lives and in our marriages and in the midst of the storms that come.  What a blessing to be able to minister to them over these three days.

I ask you to please pray for them.  Pray that God would give them exactly what they need from this event – that those who need rest will receive it; those who need refreshment will experience it; those who need to rekindle their marriages would regain that spark; and those who need to re-focus their spiritual walk will find clarity.

Thank you for your prayers!

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What motivationdrives you?  What, when you really think about it, keeps you up at night?

On Wednesday nights, I lead a Bible study and right now we are working through the book of Ecclesiastes.  It has been said that this book is the least read (and even less understood) book in the Bible.  If you have read any of the book, you know that it is not the stuff of greeting card sentiment.  It is a dark and seemingly pessimistic book.  In fact, most weeks I remind the attendees of the study that we should not go home, curl up in the fetal position and refuse to get out of bed.

What runs through the book like a bungee strap holding it together is the idea that everything “under the sun” is meaningless.

Everything under the sun . . .

In other words, if our only concern is what happens in the here and now, then we will come to the same conclusion as the writer of Ecclesiastes – it is all meaningless, “a chasing after the wind.”

In chapter 4, the writer makes a strong statement.  He says, “all toil and all achievement spring from one person’s envy of another.”  That statement should give you pause and cause some serious reflection.

So back to the original question for the day – what drives you?  I have to admit that I am not immune to being driven by envy.  I see the “success” of others and say, “I could do that.”  But when we allow our motivation to be envy and competition, we will come to the same realization – it all leads no where and amounts to nothing.

But, when our motivation is beyond the sun – when our drive comes from a desire to live for Christ and honor God – then our efforts do lead somewhere and our lives will count for something.

So what drives you?  What is the source of your motivation for today?

Live this day for God.

You won’t regret it!

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This past week, a friend asked me a very difficult but insightful question, “What is the biggest issue or crisis the church faces today?”  I did not have to think too long about my response.  Not because it is an easy question but because I have been wrestling with it for quite some time.

There are so many issues facing the church today – immigration, abortion, homosexuality, denominational bias and in-fighting.  But over the past few months, I have come to believe the greatest crisis we face today is perceived irrelevance.  The world does not see a need for the church – the body of Christ serves little or no purpose in the world in a growing percentage of minds around the globe.

Is it possible that post-modernity ushered in post-christianity?  When culture accepts the lie that there is no absolute truth, where does that leave the church?  The answer – – it leaves the church in a state of perceived irrelevance.  A culture that does not value truth sees no need for a system of organized beliefs.

We should not be surprised by the state in which we find ourselves as evangelical Christ followers.  What troubles me though is putting my finger on how we got here.  And more importantly, where do we go from here?

These are mammoth issues with no easy answers but I think complacency has something to do with how we got into this mess.  We have become too comfortable over the years.  All the years that church involvement was the social norm lulled us to sleep.  We did not have to work at reaching people and sharing the hope of Jesus – they were coming to us.  But regardless of whether you agree with my thoughts, the real issue is what do we do about it?

I believe that the first thing we should do in any situation where we face struggles is to seek God fully.  2 Chronicles 20 tells of a king named Jehoshaphat who, when faced with opposing armies coming at them from all directions, gathered the people together and in the presence of all gathered prayed to God.  And here is key point to his prayer: “We don’t know what to do but our eyes are on you.”  Maybe, when we find ourselves facing situations, we should whisper this prayer.

The church is not irrelevant.  It is God’s plan for communicating the hope of salvation to a world with no hope.  The church must continually be finding ways to share God’s truth in relevant ways.  The truth never changes but the way we share it must remain relevant.

As overwhelming as all this sounds, I have to be honest – it invigorates me.  God calls us to partner with him to reach our world and we have been gifted with talents and passions that, when used for the Kingdom, bring life and hope.  We can make a difference in our world.  We can affect change in the situation in which we find ourselves – – but not by our power and skill.  We are able to have impact because the one who is in us is greater than the one who is in the world.  (1 John 4:4)

God is still in control.

Will we be faithful?

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Yesterday, I was reading a daily blog post from Jim Denison.  You can link to it here.  Jim writes each weekday with relevant and timely postings dealing with our faith, our world and how the two interact.

Yesterday, his post caught my attention and has had my thoughts on house arrest since.  The title of the post was, “51% of U.S. Adults Say Church Is Not Important.”  For a pastor, the title alone caught my eye.  I wish I could say it was new information.  I have read these statistics before and even worse, I see it in my own community and church.

The information in his article comes primarily from the Barna Group which is known for statistical research within the faith community.  There are stats dealing with age characteristics that say that the older generations are more tied to the church than the younger – again, not necessarily new news.  But one comment opened my eyes a bit.  There is a new perception among Americans about what constitutes “regular church attendance.”  Regular church attendance used to be defined as attending 3 or 4 times per month.  Now, the new perception of what constitutes “regular” is attending church once in 4 to 6 weeks.  While this is shocking to see it in print, the reality is, we see it every week in our churches – we just haven’t quantified it.

The old school can sit back, cross arms and look down noses with pious attitudes toward the derelict society but that does nothing to encourage church attendance – in fact, it has the opposite effect.

Jim makes a very audacious suggestion at the end of the post.  He says, “Rather than measuring success by how many people go to church, let’s measure success by how effectively the church goes to people . . . Our Lord launched a movement, not an institution.  His church is an army attacking the gates of hell, not an ark built to weather the storm.”

For years, I have seen the church as a huge machine that humanity has built that now must be maintained.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the church.  I believe the church is God’s plan A to redeem mankind.  But I have to wonder if what we call church today is what God intended.

Something to ponder . . .

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Path

Today, this post marks a milestone in my ramblings here at Clay In The Hands.  Next month, I will have been posting my thoughts and struggles, joys and heartaches here for five years.  Today is the 800th post.  So as I have thought about this post, what keeps coming to mind is the journey I have been on over these last 800 posts.

I have come to believe that we drastically overestimate the change that will come in a year, but just as drastically underestimate the change we will see in five.  As leaders, we see things that need to happen and we work toward those endeavors with passion believing we will see immediate results.  However, normally, as the days wear on, it seems nothing is happening.  We look toward the goal and feel we are making no ground at all.  It can be frustrating, draining and discouraging.

But then you hit a milestone and you turn around and look back and realize, it may not have come in a year but the distance covered in five years is astounding.  I look back on where I was five years ago and to be honest, I am not sure I could have ever seen then where God has me now.  God has led me these past five years – sometimes kicking and screaming – and sometimes letting me think it was my idea – but God has been with me every step of the way.

“So the point of all this is?” you may be asking.  The point is that we are in the midst of a journey on The Way that should be seen as a marathon and not a sprint.  Just look back at your own life.  It should not be hard to realize the progress you have made over an extended period of time.

Regardless of where you are on this path, God is at work.  As long as you are striving each day to be more like Jesus and to live for him, you are moving forward.  Even when it may not seem there is any progress at all, God is forming you.

Stay with it.

God is faithful.

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