Too Ordinary to Lead

There’s a common lie that the enemy tells us. It goes something like this, “You can’t do what God is calling you to, because your to ordinary.” or “You don’t have what it takes to do what God is calling you to.” or maybe “Your not good enough to do this.” It comes in different flavors, but the basic message is the same, your to ordinary to lead.

Could it be true? I mean look around at some of the great leaders of the church today. Look at Billy Graham, he’s a great man indeed. I would venture to say that he has done more to advance the gospel than any other single person in the past 100 years. If that’s what it takes to be a leader in the church, then I don’t have it. I’m no Billy Graham.

Billy Graham is an ordinary person. Mr. Graham has done some amazing things. I’m not sure that the full impact of his ministry will really be known until we get to heaven. His ministry will continue long after he has gone to be with the Lord. But, he started out as just another lost soul, just like me and you. Billy Graham is an ordinary person.

Peter and John were ordinary people. You don’t have to read very far into the book of Acts to know that Peter did some extraordinary things. Still, Acts 4:13 tells us, “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” How could anyone call Peter an ordinary man? When we look at Peter we look at who he BECAME. We look at the things that did LATER. Peter indeed did extraordinary things. Indeed he became and extraordinary person. BUT, he started out quite ordinary, just like you and me.

God USES ordinary people. The Bible is filled with stories of ordinary people that God used to do extraordinary things. God used a shepherd boy to kill a giant when the entire army of Israel was to scare to do anything (1). God later chose this same ordinary shepherd to be king, overlooking his extraordinary brothers in the process (2). God used a man hiding from his enemies in a wine press, along with 300 soldiers to free Israel (3).

God CHOOSES ordinary people. In each of the cases that I have mentioned above God CHOSE to use these ordinary people. God did not settle for these ordinary people because he couldn’t find any extraordinary people. No, he WANTED to use ordinary people. The enemy would have us believe that God can’t use us. Or that he doesn’t want to use us. He would have us believe that we are too ordinary to do great things for God. This is a lie aimed at keeping you from being all that God wants you to be. Being ordinary doesn’t keep you from doing great things for God. Rather I would say that being ordinary is exactly what you need to be in order to be used by God. Ordinary people + an EXTRAORDINARY God = extraordinary things. You don’t have to be extraordinary to be used by God. He has enough extraordinary for all of us.

Footnotes:
1.) Samuel 17
2.) Samuel 16
3.) Judges 6


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Book Review: The Anxious Christian

The Anxious Christian coverAs many of you know I have been struggling with anxiety lately. I friend of mine recommended a book to me, The Anxious Christian by Rhett Smith. In this book Rhett shares how the death of his mother and other’s close to him led to a life filled with anxiety. He shares about this anxiety led to stuttering problem. From here it was a cycle of anxiety that caused him to stutter and stuttering that caused more anxiety. More importantly, he shares how God helped him to deal with his anxiety and brought him through the worst of it. Along the way Rhett shares how he thinks God wants to help you with your anxiety and what you can do to get through it.

If you have never struggled with anxiety or fear, then this post and this book may not be for you. However, if you are a ministry leader, then you WILL deal with people who do struggle with anxiety or fear. Whether you are a ministry leader or you struggle with anxiety, I would recommend that you get and read this book.

For anyone who struggles with anxiety, this is a great book. It’s refreshing to hear another Christian talk about his own struggle with anxiety. This is oftentimes a bad word, or at least a taboo subject within the church. For this reason to read a fellow Christian so openly share his struggle with anxiety is very encouraging. It’s also great to see that he has been able to move forward. In the midst of our anxiety and fear it can be difficult to believe that it is possible to move forward. He did, and so can you.

For men who struggle with anxiety, this is a great book. It’s hard for ANYONE to talk about their fears, but it’s even harder for men. I mean we’re men after all. FEARLESS…STRONG…we are CONQUERERS. Yeah RIGHT. We are human, just like anyone else. However, there is this feeling that other men will think less of us if we show fear. Will people still follow me if I am honest about my fears? How can we lead our families if we have fear or anxiety. If I talk to my wife about my fears will she think less of me? If I share my fears with my wife, will she have more fear and anxiety because of it? All of these questions have come to my mind at one time or another. None of them are helpful. Rhett points out some things that are helpful. If you are man who struggles with anxiety or fear, you are not alone and this book can help.

For ministry leaders, this is a great book. If you are a ministry leader and struggle with fear and anxiety, then this book can help you to work through your own fears. If you do not struggle, then I promise that you will minister to people who do. You may not even know it, but I would bet that there are people serving or being served within your ministry that are struggling with this issue right now. Read this book, then share it. I would encourage you to buy a copy for yourself and to keep a copy on your bookshelf to loan or give away. After you have read the book pray, and look for the people around you that might be struggling with fear and anxiety and might be covering it up. They need to know that it is ok and they can benefit from your help and from this book. They will be stronger because of it. You and your ministry will be stronger because of it.


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Greatest Parenting Struggles: Enough Time.

clockThis is another in my series on the greatest struggles that parents face. You can get links to the other posts HERE.

One of the things that nearly every parent struggles with is time. Certainly I know that this is a struggle for me. Let’s look at some thoughts regarding spending time with your children and some suggestions to help you find more time and make that time more meaningful.

Time matters: I have stood by the beds of many people as they died. None of them have ever expressed sorrow over having not worked enough or made enough money. They never lament having not bought their kids enough stuff. What they do regret is having not spent enough time with the people that matter most: their family. I am encouraged when I look on Facebook and see people sharing stories of the good times they are having with their children. I do believe that we are currently in a generation that understands the value of family time, perhaps better than the generation before. More and more mothers, and fathers, are choosing to stay home with their kids, even if it means living a simpler life; even if it means doing without some things that are nice, but not necessary. More and more fathers are choosing to take advantage of their nights and weekends to spend time with their kids. I love to hear stories of dads playing with their kids. These are the moments that matter.

Quality matters, just not as much as you think: Many parents will make themselves feel better about being somewhat detached by talking about quality time. Certainly their is something to that. BUT, quality time is not necessarily taking a child to Disney, or other expensive trips and activities. Some of the highest quality times I have spent with my son were just the two of us going for a walk and talking. It is in these moments that I have gotten the best look into his heart. Furthermore, even if the time you spend is the highest quality it can be but is spread out and only in short bursts, then it probably won’t have the impact you think it does.

Quantity is king: I’m not saying that you have to spend hours with your kids every single day. I’m not saying that you have watch one kids show after another until you want to scratch your eyes out. I’m not saying that you have to have tea party with your little girl every single day. What I am saying is that you should take time, even a few minutes, every day to give your child your undivided attention. This may be during a tea party with your daughter, or building Legos with your son. It may be during a walk or shooting hoops. The point is that it be regular and often.

Ok, so how do I do it? Let’s face it families these days are super busy. From school, to work, to church, to sports and other activities it seems that there is always something going on. With schedules that are so full if STUFF, how can we possibly add anything else. Let’s look at some ideas.

Open your schedule. Jesus taught that you could tell what was important to someone by how they spend their money. (1) I would say that the same is true for how we spend our time. Take a look at your schedule and determine what is REALLY important. Think about the day that your kids move out, will they care that you filled their schedule with STUFF or will it have been more valuable that you filled their life with YOU?

Cancel something. I know that this one might be hard, but you might need to cancel some stuff in order to make room in your schedules to spend time together. A pastor friend of mine once said that he let his kids be part of any sport/activity they wanted to, but they could only pick one per year. They could not play both football and baseball, etc. The idea was that they could focus on being really good at the one and spend the rest of their time being part of the family. He has five kids that all grew up to be amazing adults, so he obviously did something right.

Pencil them in. Give your kids a spot on your schedule. I’m not sure that you need to let them know that you are doing this, but intentionally set aside a specific slot each week to spend with EACH of them. You need to spend time with your kids together, but you also need to spend time with each of them just one on one. This is true for mothers and fathers.

Watch TV with them. Watching your kids’ favorite TV show with them shows them that you care about what they care about. Don’t think your kids care about their favorite show take them to a store that carries clothes or toys from their show and see how much they care about it. My daughter loves to wear the same clothes that the characters in her shows wear. My son wants to collect ALL of the toys that go with his favorite shows. Trust me they care. I know how painful it can to spend hours watching these shows, but when you do it sends a message to your kids of how important they are. If you want to make this time count, don’t just watch the show, but interact.

  • Talk about what the characters are doing or saying.
  • If you are unfamiliar with the show, ask your child questions designed to get to know the show and to cause interaction with them.
  • Look for teachable moments based on the content of the show and the actions of the characters.

TURN OFF THE TV!! I know I just told you to watch TV with your kids, now I’m telling you to turn it off. Trust me, I have not lost my mind. I hate to admit it, but in my house this is probably the biggest thing keeping my wife and I from spending time together and with our kids. As mentioned above there can be some value in watching TV with your kids, but only if it leads to interaction. Even at this, we should limit the amount of time we spend sitting in front of the TV.

Work with them. Have your kids help you with different chores and projects around the house. My daughter is five and can’t help with a lot of stuff, but she LOVES to help. So, when I fold cloths I’ll have her hand be the clothes as I fold them. Obviously I don’t NEED her help in this way, but it allows her to be involved. My son is 12 and can obviously help with much more complex projects. I have him help when I’m building or repairing stuff. This helps him to learn how to do such things, but also allows us to spend time together.

JUST DO IT. At the end of the day, just do it. I understand that after working all day, coming home to fix dinner and clean up you are tired and don’t have much left in you. Your kids don’t need much, but they do need you. Trust me when I say that this is not something that you will regret. You may regret not doing it, but you will never regret taking the time to spend with your kids.

Be honest with yourself. I know that our schedules are full and you may be reading this and thinking, “this all sounds great, but he doesn’t know my schedule.” Trust me as a full-time nurse, and part-time children’s pastor with a son in Tae Kwon Do and a dancing daughter, not to mention a wife whom I adore, I understand busy schedules. What I also understand is that if we are honest, most of us can find time in our schedule to do what is most important to us. Take some time to review your schedule and see what can be changed, moved, or eliminated to make time for your kids. You won’t regret it.

Footnotes:
1.) Matthew 6:21


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No Second Chances.

sad child 1 smallThere’s a really great some by Carlos Whittaker called God of Second Chances. I love this song, but I’m not sure I entirely agree with it. You see this song declares that God is a God of second chances. However, from what I read I don’t find this to be true.

But Jesus came to give us a second chance.  No he didn’t. Jesus came to save us. We were completely in capable of saving ourselves. Jesus came to give us A CHANCE, it a second chance.  Jesus is the only chance we have. To say that Jesus’ death and resurrection was so that we could have a second chance would be to say that we had a first chance. It would be to say that somehow we had a ticket to heaven that we lost somewhere along the way and Jesus came to give us a new one. This is not true. We were born into sin. We were born sinful by nature and, therefore, incapable of saving ourselves. Jesus came to give the only chance we had.

But Jesus forgives me when I mess up. This I actually agree with. However, to say that Jesus was the God of second chances would be to say that we could only mess up once. I don’t know about you, but I have messed up a bunch of times. My life is dotted with sins. If Jesus only gave me a second chance, then I would be in big trouble. I don’t need a second chance, I need MANY chances.

Seventy times seven. I love Peter. Of all the people in the bible Peter is my favorite. Why, because he reminds me so much of myself. Peter wanted so badly to please God. Peter was impulsive. He was slow to think and quick to take action. In Matthew 18:21 Peter does what he thinks is a good thing, “Lord, how many times could my brother sin against me and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Peter thought he was being very generous. I can almost see him standing there with his chest puffed out just waiting for Jesus to pour out praises on him because of his generosity. Rather Jesus looked at Peter and said, “I tell you, not as many as seven, but 70 time seven.” Jesus was not pointing to a magic number of 490 times that we should forgive. He was not suggesting that we keep a ledger of the wrongs that people do to us and that we are only required to forgive them the first 490 times, after which we could stop forgiving them. It would be ridiculous to try and keep track of 490 times that someone has sinned agains us. What Jesus was saying was that we should just continue to forgive our brother. What Jesus was doing was setting up the pattern that He lives by.

Jesus doesn’t give second chances. Rather He gives us as many chances as we need. Peter denied Christ 3 times and Jesus restored him. Moses was a murderer and still God used him. Saul, who became Paul, hunted down, imprisoned and even killed Christians, but Jesus used him to write most of the New Testament. Each of these people needed more than simply a second chance. They needed a God who gave them mane chances. Some like the idea of a God that gives second chances. I prefer a God who forgives me over and over again.

Ask and you shall receive. So, how do we receive this over and over again forgiveness that Jesus is talking about. It’s simply a matter of asking for it. In Luke 11:9 Jesus says, “…Ask and it will be given to you.” Jesus didn’t come to give us a second chance. He came to save us. Perhaps you are reading this and feel that you need and are ready for this forgiveness that Jesus offers. The Bible tells us that if we believe in our heart and profess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord, then we shall be saved. If you would like to learn more about this feel free to use the email button at the top of the page and I would love to talk with you more about this.


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Does Anxiety Make Me a Bad Leader?

You may have noticed that I am writing a lot about anxiety this week. If your wondering why you can check out Monday’s post, HERE for the story.

There are certain messages that we, as leaders, tell ourselves. These vary from admonitions to never show weakness to things like, “never let them see you sweat.” We can even go so far as to convince ourselves that we can not be a leader if we experience fear or anxiety. If you are anything like me, then your day is filled with a constant stream of internal messages that the people around us have no idea are even happening.

What happens when the leader has anxiety? With this constant stream of messages it can be easy for us to come to believe that anxiety and leadership are exclusive. How can we lead e people if we are afraid or anxious? As an ER nurse anxiety was sort of like a phantom. It was something that people often talked about and we treated people for it in the ER on a regular basis, but for people who have never experienced it, it didn’t seem real. There was often a desire to tell the person to “just get over it.” For leaders this type of dialogue goes on inside of us. When we feel anxious we often tell ourselves to “just get over it.” We may tell ourselves that we simply don’t have time for that today or that we are too strong for that. These attitudes may get us through a moment, but I don’t believe they will get us through the long term battle with anxiety.

Gideon was anxious. In the book of Judges we learn about a man named Gideon. Gideon grew up in a time when the Israelites were under great oppression. So much so that they found themselves hiding from their oppressors. This is where Gideon was when God called him. Gideon went on to free the Israelites, defeating their enemy with a  force of 300 men. This may be what most of us know Gideon for, but before that Gideon experience fear.

Why are these things happening? In Judges chapter 6 we read where the angel of the Lord showed up to Gideon with the greeting, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.” Gideon responded with “…if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us?” Gideon hear what the angel said, but wasn’t convinced. The angel later tells Gideon to, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel.” Gideon responded, “…how can I saw Israel? My clan is the weakest in Menasseh, and I am the least in my family.” Do these sound like the words of a man who would lead 300 soldiers into victory over an overwhelming enemy? No, these sounds like the words of someone who is scared. Someone who has anxiety.

Gideon later came to believe that this messenger was indeed telling the truth and that he could do what God was calling him to do. We later read that after , “the Spirit of the Lord came on Gideon” he asked for a sign from God to PROVE that God instructions were true. Gideon did this not once, but TWICE. This happened after the Holy Spirit had come on Gideon. Even with the help of the Holy Spirit Gideon still have anxiety.

How can I lead with anxiety? Yesterday I talked about how anxiety can lead us to activity or can scare us into inactivity. This is true for each of us as individuals, but it is also true for us as leaders. Anxiety is real and it happens to all kinds of people, even leaders. The difference is what we do with it after it comes. Does your anxiety push you to further action or does it cause you to stop moving? Does your anxiety push you to step out into uncharted regions or does it cause you to chose a path that is safer and more comfortable? Does your anxiety push you to step out in faith, trusting in what God is calling you to, or does it cause you to try to run or hide from God? This is where the rubber hits they road, as they say. This is where true leadership happens. When anxiety hits leaders move forward, followers stop and wait for the danger to pass.

Which one are you?

Will you stop and wait, or will you MOVE?


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