Leadership

A Lesson on Perseverance

Zach is learning about the Presidents of the United States in school this year. In fact, he recently learned and performed a rap of all the presidents names at his school concert this past week. In his study of the presidents, Zach asked me who my favorite president was. Without question, I said, “Abraham Lincoln!” There’s no question about it. Even one of my most favorite attractions at Disneyland is Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln. However, for all his accomplishments, I believe our 16th President was able to lead through a turbulent time in our nations history, because his character had been forged through the adversity of his life.

I love this piece from Chuck Swindoll in his book Growing Through the Seasons of Life that summarizes it all…

“There lies the most perfect ruler of men the world has ever seen . . . [and] now he belongs to the ages.”

Of whom was this said? One of the Caesars? No. Napoleon? No. Alexander the Great? No. Eisenhower? Patton? MacArthur . . . or some earlier military strategist like Grant or Lee or Pershing? No, none of the above. How about Rockne or Lombardi? No. Or Luther? Calvin? Knox? Wesley? Spurgeon? Again, the answer is no.

Well, it was no doubt said of a great leader, a powerful and persuasive personality, was it not? Certainly one admired for his success. That depends, I suppose.

When he was seven years old, his family was forced out of their home because of a legal technicality. He had to work to help support them. At age nine, while still a backward, shy little boy, his mother died.

At 22, he lost his job as a store clerk. He wanted to go to law school, but his education was not good enough. At 23, he went into debt to become a partner in a small store. Three years later his business partner died, leaving him a huge debt that took years to repay.

At 28, after developing a romantic relationship with a young lady for four years, he asked her to marry him. She said no. An earlier youthful love he shared with a lovely girl ended in heartache at her death. At 37, on his third try, he was finally elected to Congress. Two years later he ran again and failed to be reelected. I should add it was about this time he had what some today would call a nervous breakdown. At 41, adding additional heartache to an already unhappy marriage, his four-year-old son died.

The next year he was rejected for Land Officer. At 45, he ran for the Senate and lost. Two years later, he was defeated for nomination for Vice President. At 49, he ran for the Senate again . . . and lost again.

Add to this an endless barrage of criticism, misunderstanding, ugly and false rumors, and deep periods of depression and you realize it’s no wonder he was snubbed by his peers and despised by multitudes, hardly the envy of his day.

At 51, however, he was elected President of the United States . . . but his second term in office was cut short by his assassination. As he lay dying in a little rooming house across from the place where he was shot, a former detractor (Edwin Stanton), spoke the fitting tribute I quoted at the top of this column. By now you know it was spoken of the most inspirational and highly regarded president in American history, Abraham Lincoln, the man whose birthday we soon will celebrate.

What a strange lot we are! Enamored of the dazzling lights, the fickle applause of the public, the splash of success, we seldom trace the lines that led to that flimsy and fleeting pinnacle. Bitter hardship. Unfair and undeserved abuses. Loneliness and loss. Humiliating failures. Debilitating disappointments. Agony beyond comprehension suffered in the valley and crevices of the climb from bottom to top.

How shortsighted! Instead of accepting the fact that no one deserves the right to lead without first persevering through pain and heartache and failure, we resent those intruders. We treat them as enemies, not friends. We forget that the marks of greatness are not delivered in a paper sack by capricious gods. They are not hurriedly stuck onto skin like a tattoo.

No, those who are really worth following have paid their dues. They have come through the furnace melted, beaten, reshaped, and tempered. To use the words of the teacher from Tarsus, they bear in their bodies “the brand-marks of Jesus” (Galatians 6:17). Or, as one paraphrases it, they carry “the scars of the whippings and wounds” . . . which link them to all mankind.

Small wonder when such people move from time to eternity they “belong to the ages.”

Funny how we don’t remember Abraham Lincoln for how he started. Reaching God’s potential for you is never about how you start. It isn’t even about having the most talent or having the most opportunities. And it sure isn’t about luck. It’s all about staying the course, working hard, and finishing well. In fact, finishing well is more important than starting well. Whatever you are discouraged about today, may this provide a little inspiration for you to stay the course and never, ever give up!

Standing Out in the Crowd

Tired of my promotional screen shots getting lost in the crowd of pre-service announcements, I decided to create some creative and thought-provoking stand outs to promote Small Groups at SeaCoast Grace Church. The result has been very positive. In fact, I’ve received many more comments and inquiries from these slides, which are rotated from week to week, than I ever did from any previous announcement slides.

In marketing, less is usually more! Therefore, we need to clear the clutter and make the message matter. That’s what I’ve tried to do with these pieces. What do you think? What’s your personal favorite?

 

Questions to Ask Before Making a Move

Life is full of change! Seasons change. Trends change. Technology changes. Relational connections change. With all this change, it’s hard to keep up with it all. However, we don’t have to live the crazy life of change that our family, friends or society say we should. Instead, we can live out God’s design, by following our God-given passions and interests in the pursuit of God’s best for us.

As a pastor, I am often asked how to determine God’s will in the big decisions. My answer is usually, “by applying the “sound mind” principle of Scripture.” In 2 Timothy 1:7 the apostle Paul writes, “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” In employing the sound mind principle, you evaluate the talents that God has given you and make a list of the most logical ways through which your life can be used to accomplish the most for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). In other words, you list the pros and cons of each opportunity as you seek to understand how the Lord Jesus Christ can accomplish his continuing work in you and through you.

I have a few friends who are considering some big moves in their life. And they are asking a lot of questions of themselves and others before making the move. So to help them in the journey, I wanted to give them some more questions to consider as they seek to discover God’s perfect will in their life. These questions come from Bob Biehl and the Masterplanning Group in Laguna Nigel.

  1. Why am I thinking of this change? What is my real motive?
  2. What is the real price or loss that comes with this change?
  3. What do my 3-5 closest friends advise about the possible change? My spouse?
  4. If I knew I wouldn’t fail, what would I really do?
  5. What questions are lingering in my mind, that should be asked before I make the final decision?
  6. What facts should I really seek before making the final decision?
  7. How will this change affect my spiritual development? Physical development? Financial situation? Personal development? Social life?
  8. What do I see to be the major disadvantages of this move?
  9. What 3-10 things do I most like to do? Will this opportunity afford me those opportunities to do what I enjoy?
  10. Do I have a peace of mind about a yes or no answer as I pray about it and look at the decision from God’s perspective?

Great questions to consider! What questions might you add to the list?

The Cure

Some of my favorite books over the years have been on the topic of grace. However, none has offered the profound insights in such a quick and engaging read as The Cure. In this book, the authors paint a beautiful picture of grace that is greater than all our sin. And it’s the way the authors unpack this subject that gives the reader the freedom to drop their masks, destroy their illusions and simply trust that our life and identity in Christ is enough.

Here are just a few of the nuggets in this life changing book…

    • We will never please God through our efforts to become godly. Rather, we will only please God and become godly when we trust God.
    • God is not interested in changing you. He already has. The DNA is set. God want you to believe that he has already changed you so that he can get on with the process of maturing you into who you already are.
    • God’s ultimate goal is maturing us into who he says we are and releasing us into the dreams he designed for us before the world began.
    • Trusting God’s perfect love for us pushes away our fear and teaches us to embrace the love that heals our wounds.
    • In the Room of Grace no one is above anyone else. No one brags about his or her accomplishments. No one keeps score. No one is shunned. No one can lose membership for blowing it. The room is not a utopian ideal. It is a home where people live together.
  • Chalk full of rich biblical truths, this book is a gem! In fact, I would say this is probably one of the best books I have ever read! So get one for yourself. Get one for a friend. And let some of the gems in this profound book transform you and those you love.

Integrity

In his book Integrity, Dr. Henry Cloud gives six character traits that are important to focus on and develop, so that we can have true and lasting success in our lives and ministries. In short order, people with integrity:

  1. Maintain trust. They communicate authentically and expresses a genuine care for others. People trust others who understand them and are able to empathize with them.
  2. Face reality. They seek the brutal facts about themselves, others and the external world.
  3. Perform well. They know what their gifts are and don’t succumb to other people’s expectations or definitions of them.
  4. Embrace problems. They have the courage to meet the demands of reality, knowing that great things are often forged in adversity.
  5. Orient towards growth. They are constantly learning, discovering new things and taking risks in order to become all that God created them to be.
  6. Are rooted in transcendent values. They understand that to live and flourish, they must bow to things larger than themselves like faith, family and values.

So which of these six character traits do you feel you need to focus in on? That gap is your opportunity for growth! Will you seize the opportunity?

A Day on the Internet

Here’s an astounding graphic that the people at MBAonline have put together representing what literally happens in a 24 hour life cycle on the internet. It’s an interesting study of how our society tends to think, interact, communicate, and consume information. The times have certainly changed.

How to Invite Your Friends to Easter

Easter is the biggest day on the church calendar! It’s the celebration of the resurrection of Christ, the defeat of death, the victory over sin and the grave, and the promise of new life for people everywhere. And, studies show that people are more likely to go to church on Easter than any other day because it’s such a big deal. So to encourage our people to invite a friend to one of our Easter services at SeaCoast Grace Church last year, we made a fun and entertaining video, How To Invite Your Friends to Easter, which we played in our services a few weekends before Easter.

What was originally designed to be a fun motivating piece to help our people move beyond their fears and to use our printed invitations to invite a friend, became a popular link on Facebook, which was used to invite their friends to one of our Easter celebrations. What happened was beyond what we expected. The video literally went viral and to date has over 6,000 hits!

I don’t know what our video and drama teams have cooked up for this Easter, but I hope it’s as fun and as well received as last years edition…

 

Do Not Be Afraid

One of the greatest emotions leaders face is fear. We fear making the wrong decision. We fear how people are going to react. We fear being in over our heads and not knowing what to do about it. That’s why it encourages me to remember that one of the most common phrases God uses to encourage the great leaders of the Bible is, “Do not be afraid”. In fact, this phrase is used over 365 times in the Bible. So why did God so often tell the leaders he’d chosen to “not be afraid?” Because most of the time, they were afraid!

Today, I sensed God speaking to me, just as he did through David to Solomon thousands of years ago. Here is what he said, “Take charge! Take heart! Don’t be anxious or get discouraged. God, my God, is with you in this; he won’t walk off and leave you in a lurch. He’s at your side until every last detail is completed” (1 Chronicles 28:20, MSG).

Lessons I’ve Learned from Disneyland

For the last three years I have had the privilege of being an annual pass holder at Disneyland! Being that we only live eight miles from the Happiest Place on Earth, we have enjoyed countless days laughing, riding roller coasters, making memories, and visiting with friends.

This year we’re going to let our passes lapse and probably won’t renew for a while. So with our passes expiring, I did something I’ve never done before, I went to Disneyland by myself for one last visit before they did. I went to pray, dream and recount the incredible memories I have of this place. And in the process, I wrote down some of the things I learned from Disneyland that relate to church and leadership.

So, in no specific order, here are some of the lessons I’ve learned from Disneyland…

  1. Pay attention to the details – Disneyland is in the details! From hidden Mickey’s to trimmed trees in unique shapes and sizes, Disneyland pays attention to the little things, which serve to enhance the overall experience of their guests. Scripture tells us that God even knows the very number of hairs on our head (Matthew 10:30) and throughout the Bible, God is concerned about the details. The details communicate care, creativity, and create memorable experiences for people.
  2. Create a hospitable environment – Disneyland is all about hospitality! They’re genuinely happy to have you as their guest and go out of their way to make you feel welcomed and valued. They make your experience fun and engage their guests in a variety of creative ways. They truly live out the Golden Rule of Matthew 7:12, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you.”
  3. Never stop innovating – Disneyland was way before it’s time when it first opened in 1955. However, they have never stopped imagineering. In my three years as a season pass holder, Disney has done a variety of big projects to improve their parks. From adding a whole new land in California Adventure, to introducing the World of Color and 3-D to Star Tours, they live out their motto of, “moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things, because we’re curious…..And curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”
  4. Listen to your guests – You think by this point Disney knows all they need to know about running a theme park, but they are constantly seeking to gather information from their guests, seeking to discover more about their interests, needs and preferences. In addition, cast members are also very careful to listen to casual conversations. Over the years, a server or guest services member might catch that we’re celebrating an anniversary or birthday and I can’t tell you how many times they have done something special for us without any solicitation or mention. These little touches go a long way to create special memories for families and guests alike.
  5. Creatively tell the story – Disney tells amazing stories and their stories take you places you can’t otherwise go while engaging the senses of sight, sound, taste, smell and touch! Their stories capture our hearts and imagination and I think the church can learn a lot from them about telling the story of God to a whole new generation.

There truly is something special about Disneyland! And while our passes may be expiring, I know there are still many memories to be made and lessons to be learned from this incredible land of adventure, fantasy and dreams.

Ten Questions I’m Asking

Ten questions I’m asking right now, in no particular order…

#1 – Is there anything in my life that I need to stop doing?

#2 – Is there anything in my life that I should start doing?

(By the way…the answer to #2 is YES…but in order for it to happen I REALLY need to wrestle with question #1!)

#3 – How can I be more efficient in the use of my time?

#4 – How can I be a better husband?

#5 – How can I be a better father?

#6 – What will I do to create margin in my life in 2012?

#7 – What will our family vacations look like this year?

#8 – How can we as a church continue to assist people in taking their next step with Christ?

#9 – How do I reconcile my divided heart between the SF Giants and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim?

#10 – What would a 25 year reunion with my buddies from UC Santa Barbara look like in 2013? And do I want to take on organizing it?

These are some good questions to wrestle with! What questions are you asking?

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