Because The Way We Live Matters

I am just finishing reading “Start With Why”. It was a fun and thought provoking read. Like most books today, the content wasn’t new just arranged differently to make the authors point.

The book did provoke me to reconsider my “why” for what I do. I have devoted my life to helping others become better disciples of Christ because I believe the way we live matters. In short, if you were to ask me why I do what I do, I would answer “because the way we live matters”.

I believe this beyond the shadow of a doubt. Our culture has gotten lost in the consumer mentality with the promise of a free gift. Jesus died upon the cross and paid the debt for the way we (mankind) have lived, an action that we have no compensation for; we could never find a way to pay for what Christ did, we can never pay him back. But, something is required from us.

If someone offers you a free gift, you receive it right? I mean, a gift is not a gift if it is forced upon us; we of our own free will accept a gift or reject a gift – otherwise it’s not a gift but an obligation. In receiving a free gift, we have assumed the responsibility of gratitude and thankfulness, even when the gift is not what we expected, we still appreciate the giver. True gratitude and thankfulness should change your relationship and interactions with the giver of the free gift. If you don’t have gratitude or thankfulness for a free gift, you are unworthy of the gift and the giver.

So too with salvation. It is a gift so precious that there is no way we can even conceive of paying for it. It has been offered freely to us. Nothing we ever do once we receive the offer can ever repay the debt of this free gift. But, in receiving this gift of salvation we are obligated to be grateful and thankful to God. True gratitude and thankfulness towards God changes the way we live, if it doesn’t then we are unworthy of the gift and the giver. And this is the gift, in being the unblemished lamb, perfect and spotless, in order to take on our sins and pay the price we could never pay, Jesus left us an example of how we should live. Who gratefully receives a gift and leaves it hidden on a shelf? We must use this gift, this example of how to live. This is why Jesus said “I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the father but through me”.

The way we live matters. If we are not living in a way that reflects the life that Christ lived or at least making an effort to live more like Christ, then I question whether the gift was truly accepted or understood, or if there is any gratitude or thankfulness for this amazing and awesome gift.

The way we live matters.

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Fortune cookie wisdom

fortune cookie

“Doing what you like is freedom, liking what you do is happiness” read skinny piece of white paper I tore from my fortune cookie.

Christa asked me if I believed that.  I thought for a second and responded “yes, I do”.

Taken at the surface its a cute saying, but if you let your mind play at the words for a moment, it’s a bit more profound.

We live in a free nation, where “do whatever you like” is a common mantra.  That’s what we consider freedom; the ability to do whatever we like – to pursue happiness.

But how often do we really like what we do?  We over eat because we can, then feel guilty for it.  We loose our temper because we can without consequence, then feel bad for it.  We pursue wealth as happiness because we are free to do so, only to find it only brings us despair.

Liking what you do is happiness.  Looking back on that good deed and feeling good about it.  That random act of kindness that leaves you with a sense of joy for days.  The peace that  comes after a good workout or a bit of self-control faced with a good meal.  Discipline leads to us liking what we do and that is when we truly find happiness.

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leadership lesson 1243

I remember teaching my boy to ride a bike.

We live on a hill, our driveway is about 100 feet long on a 9% grade with a large flat section at the top, also about 100 feet long.  Jared learned to ride his bike on the flat section at the top, but always lusting for the thrill of the decent.

After we took off his training wheels I used to hold on to the back of his seat while he pedaled (running beside him).  He quickly got comfortable and began to protest “let go, let go! I can do this!!”  I of course would insure him that he would be able to do this on his own, soon.  Finally, after several rounds of protesting (we would ride back and forth away from the top of the hill and back to the top of the hill), on our trip back away from the top of the hill I said “OK buddy, I’m gonna let go”.  I did, and he pedaled.  He did it!  …. At least for 30 feet, where he reached the end of the run and careened into the rock wall as he was unable to turn on his own.

Jared learned two lessons that day: How to turn around without falling and I need to listen to my mentor when he says this is a bad idea (well, mostly. We’re still working on that second lesson ;)).

This is directly analogous to developing leaders. Inevitably all leaders get to the place where they want to see that they can do it, they can make that dream come to fruition under their own propulsion.  Sometimes their mentor says “yes, you are ready” and has the joy of watching their success.  Other times, “That’s a bad idea” and the struggle of watching them fall, endure the pain of failure and hopefully get up to try again.

A couple of things to consider if you develop leaders:

  1. They are leaders, of course they want to lead
  2. They are green, of course they over-estimate their ability
  3. Sometimes we MUST learn from mistakes, not all lessons can be learned from someone else
  4. We must do everything we can to get them ready to go on their own
  5. We shouldn’t stop them from making mistakes they can learn from (though NEVER stop warning them that their actions will most likely incur painful consequences that they MUST take responsibility for)
  6. We MUST stop them from killing themselves.  On occasion a young leader will think they can do something that you absolutely know will most likely incur more pain than the lesson warrants.  This would be akin to me bringing Jared to the top of the driveway and letting him go on his own down the 100 foot 9% grade – surely incurring damage that he could not recover from.

The line between “OK i will let you go, but you are responsible to clean up the crash if it happens” and “No, that is just a bad idea” is very fine and vague.  Very often we just need to go with our gut (as more seasoned leaders) to know which side to encourage and when we are unsure it’s usually better to err on the side of living through the lesson. 😉

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Thoughts on Patrick Lancioni

From Willow Creek Leadership Summit
(Building a healthy organization)

  • People need to be reminded more than instructed
  • 2 requirements for success: be smart & be healthy
  • 4 disciplines for org health
    • 1. Build a cohesive leadership team
    • 2. Create clarity
      • 6 critical Q’s
        1. Why do we exist (purpose)
        2. How do we behave (core values)
        3. What do we do
        4. How will we succeed (strategy)
        5. Whats most important, right now
        6. Who must do what
    • 3. Over communicate clarity
    • 4. Reinforce clarity through human systems
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    Thoughts from Bill Hybels

    Willow Creek Leadership Summit

  • it’s a numbers game, sow a lot of seed. The more seed sewn, the more growth.
  • stay curious
  • never stop tinkering
  • your energy is more precious than your time
  • what’s my most important contributions to my organization? Pick 6 for 6 weeks
  • visions are most vulnerable in the middle
  • leading is a privilege, thank God for it and enjoy it.
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    Life and Death

    I am sitting here at the hospital with Mim (short for memere  french for grandma.  My father’s mother).  Mim is resting, somewhat quietly in a drug induced nap.  They give her something to “calm her down” when she starts to get aggressive.  Mim had a stroke last Thursday and has been in the hospital since.  The first few days she was unresponsive and the last few days she has been physically active.  Before the stroke she was a resident at Marjorie Doyle, where she passed each day blissfully ignorant of everything, including the knowledge of who we are and who she is.  She thinks a little Filipino lady (one of the nurses at Marjory Doyle) is her father.    Mim was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s about 5 years ago and has been regressing ever since.  We had to place Mim at Marjory Doyle about a year ago when she became dangerous to both herself and our kids because we couldn’t watch her 24×7 (she lived with us until then).

    The stroke appears to have effected her mind more than her body and given the state of her mind before the stroke, any regression is substantial. She has no idea where she is, who she is, what she’s doing or why she’s doing anything.  Her body is strong and she wants to walk, most likely to nowhere in particular, just out of the hospital.  We of course wont let her walk out of the hospital or even down the hall for that matter without turning her around, which infuriates her.  She does know that she doesn’t want to do what anyone else wants her to do, only what she wants to do, however senseless that is.  There is no hope of her ever returning to “normal”, or probably even a self preserving state.  She will always require someone to keep her from hurting herself and to help her with the basic necessities to sustain life.

    I wonder if this is what God intended – no actually I don’t, but if I say what I’m thinking you will think me a heartless, inhumane monster.  You of course (you being popular opinion in our infinitely wise modern society) know that life is precious and we should sustain it at all cost.  AT ALL COST.  Even when it destroys the dignity of the person whose life we are sustaining, even when it obliterates all the good memories their family held of them and even if it is against their will.  We are  domesticated after all and realize that death is barbaric.

    We are scared of death, even those of us who  believe in an afterlife – a better place with no pain and suffering – fear death.  Death is profoundly painful and we don’t like pain; we try to avoid it at all cost, even if that cost is to another.  Think I’m being dramatic?

    Consider why we keep Mim alive.  There is no hope of her recovering to a life without pain, at least mental pain.  She will never be unrestrained and will for the rest of her life fight against that restraint or be drugged to the point where she can’t fight.  Left to her own, she probably wouldn’t live more than a couple of days; she would stop eating & drinking or something.  Actually, she probably wouldn’t have made it this long.  Mim is a believer, when she dies she will go to be with Jesus, this is unquestionably a better place for her.  But we can’t allow that.

    I find it interesting that when our pet is suffering, we consider it humane to let or even assist them out of their pain – even though they most likely have no soul and will turn into worm food with no eternal hope.  Our family however must be kept alive, not allowed to enter into eternal existence, until we can no longer physically keep them here.

    I think Moses did it right:

    Deuteronomy 34 (NIV)

    The Death of Moses

    34 Then Moses climbed Mount Nebo from the plains of Moab to the top of Pisgah, across from Jericho. There the Lord showed him the whole land—from Gilead to Dan, all of Naphtali, the territory of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Mediterranean Sea, the Negev and the whole region from the Valley of Jericho, the City of Palms, as far as Zoar. Then the Lord said to him, “This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when I said, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it.”

    And Moses the servant of the Lord died there in Moab, as the Lord had said. He buried him in Moab, in the valley opposite Beth Peor, but to this day no one knows where his grave is. Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died, yet his eyes were not weak nor his strength gone.

    I am fairly certain, if allowed, Mim would walk off somewhere until she was too exhausted to walk anymore.  She would then simply sit or lay down, probably fall asleep; no one restraining her, no needles stuck in her to keep her hydrated, no one forcing food into her, no more drugs to calm her down – just eternal bliss.

    This inhumane lack of care would of course never be allowed in our civilized society.  So I will sit here and watch over her to ensure nothing bad happens to her.

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    More and Better disciples, it’s our mission.

    How do we make More and Better disciples?
    I can’t prescribed a process that churns out disciples on demand, but i can describe the framework we are using. This framework consists of 4 principles:

    1. Understand what Christ’s life looked like
    2. Reflect Christ’s life with your life daily (personal discipleship)
    3. Join in christian community to strengthen personal discipleship (community discipleship)
    4. Continue growing

    This is not a process, it’s not sticky or catchy – no alliteration, it’s not new.  These are the principles we’ve been using at Grace for 19 years.

    Christ’s life:
    As disciples we are always moving toward a Christ centered life; we strive to reflect Christ in all we think, say and do.
    A Christ centered life is one which reflects Christ.  We can reflect Christ by following the example He left us while here on earth.   In His adult ministry, 5 activities dominated Christ’s time:

    1. He shared the good news

    (Matthew 9:35, Mark 1:14, Luke 8:1)

    1. He shared life with his disciples

    (Matthew 4:18-23, 8:23, 9:10, 10:1)

    1. He cared for and helped people in need

    (Matthew 4:23, 9:22, 12:15, 14:14, Mark 1:34, Luke 4:40)

    1. He lived a disciplined life

    (Matthew 4:2, 26:36, 21:42 Mark 1:35,12:24)

    1. He had a personal relationship with his heavenly Father

    (Mark 1:35, Luke 6:12, Matthew 3:17)

    Personal discipleship:
    If we want to reflect Jesus in our life we too should be able to reflect what we do through these activities.  This pursuit is our personal discipleship journey and it is as individual and unique as each one of us.  It is reflected everyday in everything we do and say.

    Christian community:
    We believe the community we call Grace Fellowship exists to strengthen and encourage disciples to grow closer to Christ.  The things we do together as a church community do not replace personal responsibility to reflect Christ in our whole life daily, but helps us learn to reflect Christ well in how we live.
    This is our collective goal: to develop community that promotes growth in personal discipleship.
    A community can be as many as tens of thousands or as few as two.
    The five areas we focus on in community at Grace are:

    1. Weekend services – Sharing the good news, worship, encouragement
    2. Doing life together – Youth, kids, family, groups
    3. Caring and outreach – missions, caring, serving, counseling.
    4. Spiritual disciplines – classes, coaching/mentoring (accountability)
    5. Relationship with God# – the NOT to do list – leave margin for God and others

    I said earlier i can’t prescribe a process for discipleship, but we do have a process for growth.  The growth process isn’t unique to Grace or church, there’s hundreds of thousands of pages written on how people grow, but we can simplify the growth process down to three high level steps:

    1. Learn
    2. Practice what you’ve learned
    3. Teach what you’re mastering through practice

    At Grace Latham we communicate this process as : Get it > Live it > Give it.
    The growth process ties our framework together; church events are designed to help us “get it”, if we practice daily what we are learning we “live it”, we can then begin to “give it” to others by helping them get it, thereby ensuring the growth process continues.

    My father used to say “if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything”.  This principle is also true for how we spend our time and resources, if we don’t plan for something our time and resources will be squandered on anything that comes along.

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    Staying busy

    Wow, not a single post in two months!  So, what’s been keeping me to busy to write?

    Transition to Executive Pastor: As you know, we are going through a transition that will end in September with me in the Executive Pastor role at Grace.  I have been working with our team leads on team building and planning for budget season that will start very soon!  We will spend July putting together our budget proposal to achieve our goals for the new fiscal year which starts in September.

    Discipleship process: If you attend Grace, you know our mission is to make more and better disciples.  Our method is the discipleship process.  We have been working on making the process clear and understandable.  We will be sharing where we are and what’s next with our leaders during a leaders meeting in 2 weeks!  We will also be introducing the spiritual life survey the week after Easter as we begin our discipleship series – a 4 part series focused on the importance of discipleship.

    2 in 2:  We’re launching 2 new campuses!  Working with the executive team on planning, organizational structures, site locations / ideas, and Campus Pastor search.  We’ve identified our East Greenbush Campus Pastor!  We will be sharing this during the leaders meeting and the discipleship series.

    Planning an apologetics class:  It’s been a while since i’ve taught apologetics so i am getting reacquainted with the topics, rediscovering my love of philosophy.  Look for the class at Grace this fall.  Also, look for a major midweek shift in the fall!

    Finding a school for Jasmine: Jasmine is going into Jr high!  We are not crazy about Shen Jr High, so we have been visiting christian schools in the area.  I think we’ve nailed it down, hopefully our first choice will have an opening.

    Gran Fondo:  My crazy friend Dave talked me into a 100 mile race from Manhattan up Bear Mnt and back at the end of May!  If it had been at the end of August i wouldn’t be as concerned, but 100 miles and 5 categorized / timed climbs after a long slow winter is a bit intimidating.  🙂  I’ve been trying spend about an hour a day on the bike.

    Vacation: I am heading to Myrtle beach with my sister and the kids for a week off (bringing the bike so i can keep training!).  With all that’s been going on i am ready for a week of down time!

    There’s a lot of good stuff going on at Grace. I will keep updates coming here as we begin rolling out new ideas!

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    “Jeff”, Nancy’s voice startled me out of my introverted coma.  “We are doing the meeting at 10 this morning, right?”  Nancy asked as she noted the empty room.  “Yah, but you know how it is around here, always last minute”.  Or at least when the boss wasn’t calling the meeting.  Surely if Ben had sent out the invite everyone would show up 10 minutes early, eager to hear what the CEO had to say.

    “Hey Jeff!” I glanced at the clock as Mike walked in, 4 minutes till 10.    “Hey” I retorted and forced a smile.  My gut wrenched.  It’s taken us 6 grueling months to come up with this plan, I can’t believe we’re gonna force a decision in just one hour.  What if Ben can’t understand the problem?  What if he doesn’t believe me? Can I explain this in an hour?

    3 minutes to go. “Mike, did you see that game last night?”  Karen asked strolling in.  Wow, she didn’t even look at me.  Isn’t this my meeting?  I’ll bet she’s bent because we finalized the plan without her.  It’s not my fault she couldn’t make the last meeting.  If I waited for everyone to be available we’d never get anything done!  She’s going to make this painful.

    “Morning friends” Ken beat the clock by 2 minutes. He isn’t making eye contact with me, what’s up with that?  This will barely affect his team, if anything it will make their lives easier.  Huh, he’s sitting right next to Karen!  What are they up to?

    Why isn’t Ben here yet?  If one of my guys were holding a meeting this important I would be the first one in the room.  Ben is going to shoot this down, I know it! My credibility is shot – I am done here.  Where will I go?  I’ve given this place the best 10 years of my career.  I can’t start over.  Who is going to hire me now?  If this fails I’m through.

    10:00 AM.  “Jeff, lets get started.  I have another meeting at 11.”   Ben appeared and the room snapped to attention.  Really?  You scheduled another meeting right after the most important meeting of the year?  Is everyone else delusional?  Don’t they know what’s at stake here?  This is going to be a train wreck, maybe I should just leave now and spend the rest of the day working on my resume.

    “Sure Ben, I’m ready if you are.  This shouldn’t take too long…”


    Failure can be paralyzing.  We work hard to see our efforts appreciated and rewarded and sometimes we fail.  Fear of failure may keep many of us from even trying sometimes.

    Is it OK to fail?  What should we do when we fail?

    Join us this weekend as Pastor Rex talks about the fear of failure:


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    Its amazing how hard the earth can feel under your feet, especially when you know you are about to leave it.

    Jenny stole another glance over the cliff before recoiling back against the tree.  They were chanting her name, “Jen-ney, Jen-ney, Jen-ney”.
    She didn’t want to turn her head and look at them, she knew they were laughing at her.  “she’s not gonna jump, she’s chicken!” Steve taunted as he ran right by her and off the edge of the cliff.  Jenny’s heart fell into her stomache as Steve’s feet left the ground beside her. She listened for the sound of Steve hitting the water which seemed a thousand feet below, then she held her breath waiting to hear him resurface and begin swimming back to shore.

    She would have to jump eventuality or they would think she was a coward.  Jenny breathed deeply, savoring the warm summer air.  Memories of camping trips as a kid and the love and acceptance of her parents rushed into her mind.  She hoped it wouldn’t be her last breath as she closed her eyes and fell forward.

    Do you ever find yourself desiring acceptence?  It’s normal, Most of us fear rejection to some extent.

    Tune in this weekend as we  talk about the fear of rejection: Online

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