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3 Reasons You Have A Spouse

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In the story of creation we find in the Bible each time God created something He said that it was good. The skies, the water, the animals, the stars, they were all good. Then He created man and this was God’s response in Genesis 2:18 NLT Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.” For the very first time, God said it was not good. Something needed to be added. It was not sufficient by itself. So God created a relationship that we call marriage. There are some very specific things here that should help us gain some understanding of the importance of marriage and the value it brings.

 

It is not good to be alone

God created us to be in relationship. When He looked at man alone, He recognized that it was not good. There is a difference between seeking the solitude of being alone and the reality of loneliness when we have no other options. Adam did not have any other options. For human relationships, there was no other person. God immediately recognized that for Adam to be complete, he could not be alone. Our spouses are there so we do not have to be alone. They are the most important earthly relationship we have. We must learn to be there for one another. One of our jobs as a spouse is to be a companion so our partner is not alone. 

 

Created by God

After His recognition that man did not need to be alone, His response is to make a solution. He made it. Not only did He make it, but He made it just right. There should be comfort, peace and real expectation to know that God has created someone for us. And not just someone, but someone who is just right for us. That is why it is critical for us to pray and seek wisdom when looking for a spouse. God has created someone specifically for you that is just right. Why take a chance in the lottery when we have been given the ability to seek the Creator and know who He created for us? Your choice in marriage does not have to be a gamble. God has one specific person for you.

 

Helper

Not only has God created someone who is just right for us, but they are also our helper to come along beside of us and to help us become everything we were designed to become. There are certain things that we need to know and learn that can only be learned in the context of relationship, and some more specific things that can only be learned in the context of the marriage relationship. The wise King Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 4:9 NLT  Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. Success comes from the help of others. There is success that you will only achieve with the help of the person that God designed for you in the covenant of marriage. Be thankful for the success you achieve with the help your spouse brings.

The marriage relationship serves many purposes. Though these are not the only purposes of marriage, they are three specific reasons that are made clear in the very first human relationship at creation. Do not discount the value that they bring to your life. Your spouse brings value to you that no one else can. As we understand better the reasons why God places us together in the relationship of marriage, we can understand better how that relationship is to work and how we can support one another. Marriage was intended to be for mutual fulfillment and that is achieved as we become aware of why we have this relationship.

Why I Hugged A Homeless Man

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In my lifetime, I have known a reasonable amount of privilege, though mostly unacknowledged. I was born in the United States which brings with it a certain amount of privileges that the majority of the world does not know. I was not born into a wealthy family, but I was born into a family where both parents had employment and both were committed Christians. My dad had a bachelor’s degree from North Carolina State University and had a job working for a large corporation. He became a minister soon after I was born, so I was raised around people of generally good moral character who had significant influence on me. My parents worked hard to support our family and others. By nature of my conservative religious upbringing, I found myself growing up to be politically conservative as well. I was afforded numerous learning experiences and usually found myself in above average circles academically.

As I became a teenager, certain things became almost intuitive. I knew to get a job. I knew to work hard. I knew to provide for myself and my family. There were times I failed to do some of those things, but I knew what I was supposed to do. I was instinctively generous because I had seen my parents model that all of my life. Though they were probably poor by American standards, it never stopped them from doing their best to assist people. So as I got older, I knew that I should help others. Sacrificing financially seemed second nature at times. However, I had a disconnect between the giving and the understanding of why people needed help.

I have been guilty of many of the assumptions that others make. Things such as “They just need to get a job” or “Why don’t they apply themselves” or “ They could change if they wanted to”. I don’t recall it slowing my willingness to help those in need, but I did begin to recognize I was disconnected from those people. As I grew older, I began to see things through a completely different lens. I began to understand that if just one of the things I listed in the first paragraph had been different, my entire life could have been drastically different.

I started to ask myself questions and look at the plight of others and realize how their circumstances were a collection of many other things, some of them for generations, and I started to become aware that someone changing their life is not always as simple as “if they wanted to”. I started trying to place myself in other people’s shoes and comprehend how education or family background was affecting someone’s plight. Was their location a factor? Though helping financially was necessary, what other things needed to take place to change someone’s life? What could I do to relate better to people in need?

This has been a journey that has taken years. Years for me to begin to understand and appreciate the plight of others. It is still an ongoing journey. Recently I experienced a new part of that journey. I will admit it stretched me, but it is changing me.

One of the things I have struggled to understand is homelessness in America. We are a wealthy country with lots of opportunity, Why are people homeless? Recently, I was visiting New York City with a few members of my family. There are plenty of homeless people there begging for help from passersby. That seems understandable due to the enormous number of people from whom you can ask for help. While there, I asked Barbara, “What would make someone want to continue to be homeless? Could they not change towns and find employment where there may be jobs and lower starting costs? What has to happen to a person for them to accept this as a lifestyle?” As with most of the questions that we ask ourselves, it seemed logical to me. After asking the question, I felt prompted in my spirit that while I was in New York City, I needed to hug a homeless person. I am a person of faith and I believe at times we are prompted by the Holy Spirit to do certain things that may benefit others, but usually it is also a part of our own personal growth.

If you know me, you know I am not a hugger. I know plenty of people who are, but in general I prefer to shake hands. The hugging alone has been a journey for me as I have come to understand that it offers affirmation and comfort to people who need that. Add to that the fact that I prefer to stay clean. Forgive me if I admit that it crossed my mind. Not only would hugging someone challenge me, but hugging someone who may not have bathed in months or whose clothes had not been washed in months would challenge me even more. The thought of that pressed every sensibility that I had. As we journeyed each day around New York City, each time we passed a homeless person I was reminded of what I needed to do and wondered exactly how that was going to happen. Was I just going to walk up and ask for a hug? Would they think I was trying to harm them? Would they say no? Would we have a conversation? What do I say? What was I supposed to learn?

On Saturday night before we were supposed to leave the city the following day to fly to Moscow, we were walking down 8th Avenue near my favorite burger place in New York City, Shake Shack. It was crazy busy as most Saturday evenings are. It was a mild fall evening and people were enjoying being outside. As we strolled along to our hotel, we passed by a homeless man begging on the sidewalk. He was squatting, holding his head with one hand while holding a small sign requesting money with the other. The sign was so small and illegible that you would need to stop to read it. There was a small Dixie cup in front of him to collect money, but only a few coins were inside. He never looked up as we passed by, but as we did, I felt that prompting again. We continued walking to the end of the block and I could go no further. I asked everyone if they could wait a few minutes and I turned around to go back to the homeless man.

When I got to him I introduced myself and extended my hand as I would anyone else. He said a name, but I do not recall what he said. He did not offer his real name. I didn’t know that at the time, but he would later tell me his real name. I got down on the sidewalk beside this man while people hurried by and I asked him to tell me his story. At first he said he didn’t have much of a story. I really think he thought I was the police. But I asked him to tell me how he ended up homeless. He recognized that I really wanted to know and he began to tell me about himself. He had been a tattoo artist for 25 years. He was from New Jersey. He had tried to open his own tattoo shop and had put everything he owned into it. Something happened with other partners or investors and he lost everything. He had been homeless, on the streets begging for about six months. He was looking for work hoping to change his plight, but for now he had to resort to sleeping on the streets, eating food that people gave him and begging for spare change. He talked about the emotional toll that it was taking on him which he described as worse than the physical toll. I told him my name again and I told him that I was a pastor and from that day forward I would pray specifically for him. I was there for a reason and I knew I couldn’t leave just yet. I asked him if I could give him a hug. He looked at me with tears in his eyes and surprise on his face. We looked so different but we weren’t that different at all. There on 8th Avenue in New York City, a wall came down for me. I needed the hug as much as he did. As people passed by, many of my own prejudices and lack of understanding came crashing down as I had taken a few moments to understand someone else’s circumstance.

“Jesse,” he said, “ My name is Jesse”. That is not what he told me when I first introduced myself, but suddenly once he knew that I wanted better for him and was sincere about praying for him, he trusted me with his name. He had not even trusted me with his name until he knew I cared about him.

 So every day now I am praying for Jesse. Before I left I told Jesse that I understood that he needed more than prayer at that moment, so I reached in my wallet and gave him money. He was grateful. So was I. The money was easy for me. The hug required me to grow.

The Holy Spirit prompted me so I could grow and Jesse could be comforted. I understood more about a single person because I engaged them instead of passing judgment. What a different world we would live in if we would engage one another instead of living in our assumptions and judgments when we have never sat down beside them in their situation to find out why they were there. I hugged a homeless man because I needed to learn something. People want to be understood. People want to be loved. They just want to be heard. And for a brief moment on 8th Avenue in New York City I was the Jesus that Jesse needed to see. 

4 Things I Learned In The Second Chair

 

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I recently celebrated five years as Lead Pastor at Open Door Church and shared some reflective thoughts here www.stephenmizell.com. As wonderful as my time as Lead Pastor has been, the time that I spent as an associate pastor or staff member was extremely beneficial to me in the current role where I serve. My previous role evolved from worship pastor to executive pastor prior to becoming lead pastor. In those roles where I was not the senior leader, there were some things I learned that benefit me immensely today. I do not claim this to be an extensive list, but these are things that apply to every single staff member and will certainly be of great benefit if you become the senior leader.

 

You don’t get all of the credit you deserve

And every staff member in every organization said, “Amen”. There is usually no less work required in a supporting staff role, however the recognition for the work that you do is often missing.

Occasionally it is intentional because the senior leader is insecure, however most of the time it is not intentional. The person at the top usually gets too much credit, but they often get too much blame. The ultimate responsibility of an organization falls to the senior leader and his fate is often tied to the success or failure of the organization. Harry Truman famously had a sign on his desk that said “The buck stops here”. It was his acknowledgement that he was ultimately responsible. However for success to be achieved, numerous other people and circumstances have to be present. The person at the top usually gets too much credit or too much blame. In support roles, that can be exaggerated as well. Those roles can suffer from very little credit and way too much blame. Unfortunately, there will not only be times that you do not get the credit that you deserve, but you get blame for things over which you had no control. Good work eventually gets recognized and rewarded, so keep doing your best and the rewards will eventually follow.

 

You are at someone else’s mercy

In most organizations, you serve at the pleasure of, or mercy of, the senior leader. This means they often have control over not just your fate but your daily schedule. This can be unnerving at times to know that much of your family’s financial well-being resides in the opinions of another person. If you are a high performer, they usually do not want you to leave, even if they feel threatened or frustrated by your influence. However, there are times when egos or emotions override common sense and you suffer because of that. Real leaders are servants first, so serving someone else should not bring fear, but fulfillment.

 

Integrity is critical

Though you would think this is obvious, sadly it is not. People often use their positions as a means to an end. The end being more important than the integrity of the position. Moving up the ladder at the expense of your character is too high a price to pay. As John Maxwell says, “Talent may open a door for you but character will keep it open.” There will be times when your motives and integrity are challenged at every level of leadership. I found that over time, integrity always wins. In our current era with social media and information overload, it is even more important to act with integrity in the roles where we serve. Integrity is critical, even if it costs you your job.

 

Do what is best for the organization because it may be yours

Occassionaly you may be faced with a difficult or complicated challenge. In those instances, it may be tempting to choose the path of least resistance because you believe that the burden of the decision will fall to the senior leader or if the work required to make a particular change or start a specific initiative looks overwhelming you may choose what is easiest. When you are in a support staff position, you should always try to do what is best for the organization. First, it is an integrity issue. Second, you may eventually end up being the senior leader and the wise choices you make now will benefit you later. I experienced this on several fronts where difficult choices that were made while I served as an associate were of great benefit to me and the church when I became the senior leader. The right choices now will make your job easier in the long run, especially if the organization becomes yours to lead.

 

I am grateful for the things that I learned serving on staff at Open Door. I believe I am a better Lead Pastor because of the choices I made before that was my title. There are lessons to learn on every step of the leadership ladder. Learn them well and they will benefit you long term.

7 Tips for Parenting Adult Children

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Parenting is one of the greatest challenges of life. It is extremely rewarding and at times extremely heartbreaking. It often seems like every weakness and failure that is exhibited in your own life shows up in the life of your children. This seems to be even more magnified when they are adults and are making their own choices. When our children are younger, we assume more control over their lives. As they get older, we have to rely less on control and more on influence. Being a parent of adult children brings a new set of challenges because now they are your contemporaries. Barbara and I have four adult children and we are working through the challenges of being the best parents we can be. Here are 7 things that have helped us and will hopefully assist you in being a better parent to adults.

Cheer

All adults want to be recognized for their successes and achievements. Our adult children want our approval and they want to be told that we are proud of them or hear our cheers for their accomplishments. This seems to come easier when they are younger and they are playing in a sporting event or dancing in a recital. As adults, we don’t often get to see similar accomplishments first hand, but when we become aware of them, we should offer our praise. Our words of affirmation and praise as a parent are like gold to our children especially when they are adults. Don’t withhold them.

Watch

There are lots of names in recent years for overprotective parents. Things like “helicopter parents” or “hyper-active parents”. It starts when they are born but doesn’t seem to fade even when they become adults. We go to great lengths to keep them from experiencing failure or pain. When we constantly intervene in their problems or struggles, especially when we solve their problems for them, we limit their capacity to learn and even weaken them from being able to survive difficult times when we are not around. As difficult as it may be, sometimes there are lessons that they will only be able to learn through failure. If you struggle with this, start with smaller things that may not be life altering. You will not always be there. They need to learn how to be aware, focused and determined for themselves. Don’t always bail them out.

Know

This can be difficult for someone like me because I like to talk and I have lots of opinions. The reality is my children have their own opinions. I should not try to speak about every issue or try to offer my opinion about every situation. I must be selective with the things that I address. Every issue is not life or death. I read that the famous boxer Muhammad Ali got into a bar fight early in his career. Someone grabbed him by his collar and drug him outside. When he gathered himself, he came up ready to fight only to realize that it was his manager. Ali asked his manager why he pulled him out of the fight. The manager replied, “You only have so many fights in you, and this is not one of them.” In parenting the same is true. We must choose our battles wisely. Safety and spiritual development should be high priority topics. Some other things are less necessary. Choose what is most important or where you can offer the most help, and speak to those. Be selective not invasive.

Give

Our children start wanting their own space earlier in life and the space grows wider into early adulthood. They are trying to learn who they are without the constant input or influence from a parent. As they become an adult, we must make sure that we are recognizing them as a contemporary as much as our child. This requires giving them space to be their own person. Space to make decisions while not offering our opinion without being asked. Other things like knocking prior to entering their home or room or asking their opinion and input on important matters provides them space. You desire your space as an adult; give them the same respect. Not only respect their space, but also respect their opinion and input on situations. Discounting their feelings or opinions solely because you are the parent can be both unwise and unhealthy. When we can see them as people and not just children, our perspective and conversation evolves.

Share

One of the greatest things that we have to offer our adult children is wisdom. We have tried many things and failed. We have made choices that we have had to live with that if given the opportunity to change, we would. We have a vast array of experience that can help guide our adult children away from some of the pain we have lived through. This will require us to be vulnerable and open about things that they may be unaware of, but can be invaluable to them in their growth. Why make them pay a price you have already paid. Don’t be afraid to tell them you failed. It may be the best encouragement you can give to them. I urge you to practice wisdom while sharing. Sharing something too early or too late can be disastrous. Make sure they can handle it, but then trust them to handle it so they have the information needed at the best time to be of the most use.

Recognize

One of the challenges for parents at high school graduation is suddenly their child becomes their contemporary. It creates this learning curve that is often challenging for parents. The child is usually pressing to be treated like an adult and the parent is learning to accept that reality. It requires new rules of engagement and behaviors. Their actions may not always portray the adult you think they should be, but it does not remove the fact they are and we must treat them as such.

Expect

With adulthood comes more responsibility. One of the battles of this transition is the desire to be accepted as an adult while managing the responsibilities of being an adult. We should respect them as adults, but it is fair and wise to have certain expectations of them as adults. This may include providing their own place to live or paying rent while living at home. It may include being responsible for their finances or how they carry themselves in public. As the old saying goes, “If you want to be treated like an adult, then act like one”.

Though raising adult children brings a new set of challenges, it is not the time to stop being a parent. It is time to learn to be the best parent you can be and understanding the role that you play in their lives. You are leaving a legacy.

5 Reflections From 5 Years

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On October 10, 2010 (10/10/10) I sat in the small cafe we had created in what used to be the kitchen for the fellowship hall and waited to see if the church would vote for me to be Lead Pastor at Open Door. Though I had been on staff for almost three years at that point, there was a nervous anticipation because my future was in the hands of the people. The church constitution required at least 80% approval for me to become the Lead Pastor. The elders led about 180 people through the process of voting and after counting all of the ballots, Open Door had chosen me to become their pastor. It was a very emotional moment for me and my family and a joyous beginning for both the church and our family.

This weekend we passed the five year mark of that date. Certain markers bring about a certain amount of reflection in my life and the five year anniversary of becoming the Lead Pastor at Open Door is one of those times. I could fill pages with the wonderful memories we have created, but here are five reflections of the past five years that are at the front of my mind.

Grace is Amazing
We sing the song and know the lyrics, but sometimes we fail to think about the amazing grace moments in our lives. The night Open Door voted for me to become the Lead Pastor was one of those amazing grace moments in my life. Though the church had already shown me an enormous amount of grace over the previous five years while we attended and then came on staff, the fact that they would trust me to lead the congregation was truly an amazing moment. There had been moments of time when I wondered if I would ever have that opportunity again. Not only was I given that opportunity, I was given the opportunity with the best group of people on the planet. I am still amazed today at the grace shown to me.

Growth is work
That is an understatement. Growth does not happen by accident. Growth requires preparation, includes growing pains, and sometimes requires loss. Adding more services on Sunday requires everyone to work harder. Construction of new buildings requires committed givers. New staff requires dedication to selecting the right person. New campuses require all of those resources and more. I am thankful for the growth we have experienced in each of these areas, but none of it has been easy. Healthy growth requires work.

Change is difficult
It is impossible to grow without change and change can be difficult. When a young couple adds a tiny baby to their family, great change takes place with this little addition. When hundreds of new people come into our church, it brings change that can be difficult. It is change you want because you want new people, but it doesn’t remove the challenges of the change. Sometimes it is style or atmosphere while other times it may require new buildings or service times. The most difficult changes involve people. Sometimes it is a staff member leaving or someone who is a part of the church who moves or chooses to no longer attend. The people change is often heartbreaking and offer the greatest struggles. Though I am aware it is impossible to keep everyone, the reality of it is still difficult.

The right people improve everything
In the discussion of the right people, I must start with the fine people who make up Open Door. I believe Open Door is made up of the best people on the planet. I could not have asked for a group of people to be more accepting and loving than what we have experienced from the wonderful family we have gained at Open Door. On top of the people that call Open Door home, there are ten staff members that I get to work with each week. The right people make me much more successful at my job and improve the quality of my life. Every single person helps me become a better leader, person and most importantly a better disciple of Christ.

The best days are ahead
At times I am in awe at what God has allowed us to accomplish in the last five years. However I am convinced of one thing: our best days are ahead of us. I do not believe we have crested the hill or that the good old days are our reward. I truly believe what lies ahead will be some of the greatest victories and accomplishments for the Kingdom. For these to be our best days, we will need to continue to show amazing grace to people who walk through our doors. We will have to work for growth and deal with the difficulty of change. It will require us to continue to grow ourselves so we are the right people for the job. When those things happen, great will always be in our future.

I am thankful for the past five years. I am excited about what the next five years will bring. This is not the end, but just the beginning. There is work for us to do!

3 Questions Every Leader Should Ask

Being identified as a leader signifies that someone is following or that we have influence over others. One of the struggles that we have at times is that we do not seem to correlate the behavior of those that we lead with our own behavior, unless it is good. When they have attitudes or issues, we often question why they are thinking or behaving in such a manner. Though I already understood this principle, recently while reading my Bible a particular verse reinforced that understanding. It said, “And what the priests do, the people also do.’ So now I will punish both priests and people for their wicked deeds.” (Hosea‬ ‭4:9‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

As I read this, there were several things that I began to think about as it related to leaders, followers and the results of our actions. So I have been asking these three questions to determine if what I am doing needs to change so that those that are following can have positive behaviors. The three questions are:

What am I doing?

This verse starts out with a statement “what the priests do”. I am a pastor so that specifically resonates with me, but this question does not just apply to pastors or priests. This question applies to any leader. Whether you are leading in an organization, church, business or family, it is good to examine what we are actually doing. What gets our attention? What habits do we have? What things occupy the majority of our time? What do I do?

The thing that most leaders struggle with is the fact that it is easier to overlook our own flaws or weaknesses or to offer grace to ourselves because we know our intentions than it is to offer that same type of understanding to others. Our intentions are rarely what gets followed; it is our actions that are imitated. I have heard people say, “Do as I say, not as I do”, which is an admission that we do not want others mimicking our actions. However, what you do is what people see and they are impacted to do the same. We should examine our actions and determine if what we are doing is a reflection of our intentions. What are you doing?

What are the people doing?

The writer here follows the remark about what the priests do by stating “the people also do.” Leaders must understand that followers implies that those we lead will end up at the same destination we will. Often the actions we do not like that we see in those we lead mirror our own actions as leaders. We may see this most clearly in a parent-child relationship where they exhibit learned behaviors from parents that we wish they did not have. Many of those behaviors are learned directly from their parents. The same is true of every leader relationship, “the people also do”. We cannot exempt ourselves from the correct behavior. We must be the models.

One of the best ways to examine your own leadership is to see what the people are doing. If you are truly a leader, people are following you. The are going in your direction, following your pattern, mimicking your behaviors. What are the people doing?

What are the consequences?

No action or behavior is neutral. Each action brings with it positive or negative consequences. The end of this verse states, “So now I will punish both priests and people for their wicked deeds.” Their actions brought punishment. The reality is that all actions bring some type of consequence. It may be punishment or reward, but it is not neutral. What the leader and the people are doing are creating some type of end result. Though we may say it is not our desired result, it is still the result of our choices and actions.

This is a great question to ask prior to taking action. If we can better determine what the outcome is going to be, it may change our actions. Though you may not always know the exact outcome, wise counsel and deliberate thought can often help you understand the outcome of each scenario. What are the consequences?

There is a children’s song entitled “O Be Careful Little Eyes” and the first line is “O be careful little eyes what you see”. What people see is what will get imitated. This applies to our family, church, business or any place that we lead. I encourage you to apply these three questions your own leadership situation. Each of us can lead better as we have a better understanding of the results we are getting.

3 Reasons We Resist Change

This week Barbara and I were scheduled to travel to Istanbul, Turkey to teach in a leadership conference and speak in a local church. We have made a three year commitment to go to Turkey twice a year and teach leadership. As a part of that, we will visit one of the churches of Revelation on each trip. Our airline tickets were purchased, we had scheduled the time away and we were excited about traveling to Turkey for the first time. A couple of days prior to leaving, the country coordinator for the leadership organization called and said they needed to postpone the conference due to some unrest in Turkey. As you would expect, we were disappointed, even though we preferred not to be involved in any political turmoil that may be taking place in another country.

As I thought about how I felt about the trip changing, I took notice of some things that I was considering that are involved in every change. Change is something that many people struggle with in a variety of areas. It is not limited to one particular area of your life. Here are three reasons why most people resist change, including myself.

We have an investment

One of the very first things I thought about when my trip was cancelled was the investment I had made in airline tickets. The tickets were non-refundable. Though we could get partial credit to use later, we were still going to lose a substantial amount of money. The cost to cancel and use the tickets later was $330.00 per ticket. We had made a substantial investment in travel costs and planning and it was difficult to lose a significant part of that investment.

When we face change in other areas of our lives, it is usually something in which we already have a significant investment. It may be changing jobs, buying a new home, moving to a new city or replacing clothes. It could be a program or method that we have been using in our organization for a period of time. Whatever it is, we have made a significant investment of our time, energy and talents. When changes comes, we feel like we are losing our investment. We look at it as a cost. However, the cost of not changing could be much higher. In our case, we could have found ourselves in a situation where our lives may have been in danger had we not been willing to change. That is a much higher cost. Changing does not make your previous investment worthless, it just means that what you are changing to should be worth more.

We have made plans

There are certain obligations I have that require my presence. I am a pastor so each week I prepare and present a sermon to our congregations. There are several hundred people who expect me to be present each week. We schedule several weekends for me to be away each year so that our campus pastors can preach live to their congregations. This is done several months in advance and it coordinates with our church calendar so everyone knows what to expect. We had scheduled a series and our campus pastors had prepared to speak on that Sunday. I had prepared the lessons for the leadership conference. We had made some adjustments at my business so things would continue to run smoothly. A lot of preparation had taken place for this trip. With one phone call, most of it was set aside. There was nothing life shattering about it, but it was disheartening that things you had spent time and energy planning were not going to work out. Not to mention we were left to plan something different for these seven days which in itself has been a challenge.

The same is true in other areas of change. We spend time working to make our job better, house nicer, program or event operate smoothly. We may have things in such order that our recurring annual events run seamlessly because we have prepared so well in advance. Then a program changes or a business reorganizes and what we had been planning for is suddenly thrown by the wayside. This will often cause us to resist change because we have invested our time into planning what was previously scheduled. Our level of frustration often goes up because we feel our time has been wasted or because there is something new we are going to have to learn or plan. Change will often wreck your plans. Don’t allow it to wreck your attitude.

We have expectations

This was going to be our first trip to Turkey. We had done some research on things to see and items to purchase while there. I was excited to begin visiting the seven churches. I looked forward to eating new food, learning about a new culture and meeting new people. There was actually a lot of excitement for Barbara and I as we expected this to be another growing and learning experience as we also helped others grow. Nothing we expected will happen this week. As they say, the air was let out of our balloon. Our expectations for that trip would have to wait and our expectations for this week would need to change.

One of the most difficult parts of change has to do with expectations. When things are planned, there are certain things that we expect to happen. We enter marriage or our first job with a set of expectations. We are looking for certain things to happen. Then what actually happens is different from our expectations and we are disappointed. One of the best things we can learn to do is to change our expectations. We often expect changed programs, jobs, homes or marriages to produce a result they were not intended to produce. When our expectations are not met, we struggle with disappointment. My change this week allowed me to write this post. This Sunday I will get to preach live at our Bertie campus, which I have not been able to do yet this year. Two of our grandchildren had a sleepover with us last night. None of these things were what I expected when the week started, but it did not stop me from being excited about new things because I changed my expectations.

What things do you struggle with where change is concerned? How might you implement a different approach based on these three thoughts? I would love to hear your feedback. Change happens!

Conviction

Sunday my grandson Vandin came in the house after church and proclaimed to me that he learned about “conviction”. Seeing as he recently turned 4 years old, that is a pretty big word for him to be throwing around. Remembering the word was quite an accomplishment, but I still attempted to coax from him what he understood about conviction. He struggled some to give the definition he had learned at church. To be truthful, my experience with Vandin was not that different from my experience with many people when talking about conviction and what it means from the perspective of a follower of Christ. Usually when people speak of conviction, they think in terms of a criminal court where most dictionaries would define it as “the act of convicting someone, as in a court of law; a declaration that a person is guilty of an offense.” This definition is usually not what we are speaking of in church.
 
The second most common definition would be: “a fixed or firm belief.” This definition would be applied in church, but it is much broader than that. It is bigger than just a belief. Your convictions include your values, commitments and motivations. The great Bible teacher Howard Hendricks said: “A belief is something you will argue about. A conviction is something you will die for!” The actual definition that the children in church are working from is “standing for what is right, even when others don’t.” Our convictions determine our conduct. If you are concerned about your conduct, it could be time to examine your convictions.
 
Often when we speak of conviction in the world of Christianity, our definition would more reflect this one from the CARM Dictionary of Theology: Conviction is the work of the Holy Spirit where a person is able to see himself as God sees him: guilty, defiled, and totally unable to save himself (John 16:8).  Conviction functions differently for the Christian and non-Christian. For the non-Christian, conviction reveals sinfulness, guilt, and brings fear of God’s righteous judgement. Whereas, conviction in the believer brings an awareness of sin and results in repentance, confession and cleansing. Theologically, conviction is produced by the Holy Spirit (John 16:8), the Gospel (Acts 2:37), conscience (Rom. 2:15), and the Law (James 2:9). Conviction of sin brings man to the cross and shows the need for forgiveness.
 
As a Christian, I experience this type of conviction regularly as God seeks to mold my life more in the image of Christ. At times I am stumped as to how I should respond when I feel convicted. Prayer and repentance is an obvious choice, but sometimes it is more involved. Recently I felt convicted for simply talking too much in a social setting. Nothing sinful, off color or offensive was said, I just felt convicted for saying too many words. There were probably several reasons for this. One, much of what was said was trivial; some of it was probably downright silly. Two, I can help people more if I listen and make an intentional effort to understand than I can if I am constantly talking. I will know better how to respond when I do speak if I have listened more carefully. Last, I am not sure I increased my influence to speak later into these people’s live about significant things. What I struggled with was how to respond to this conviction. Was the Holy Spirit working in me to improve me for the next time? Was I supposed to go back to the people I was with and share with tem how the Holy Spirit was working in me (which I am still contemplating)? Should I just pray and change? Conviction should bring change. Understanding and acting upon that change can be difficult.
 
I try not to view conviction as a bad thing. The encouragement for me with conviction is that it reminds me that I do have a relationship with God and He still has a desire to see my life improve so that I can be a better representative of Him. Without fail, I also know that I look more like Christ when I listen and change.
What does conviction look like in your own life? Which definition do you apply most often when you think of this word? Is it your belief system? How is the Holy Spirit working in you right now to change you? What actions do you need to take as a part of that to become more like Christ? As I pressed Vandin to get him to explain what conviction meant, the one word that he would finally share was “right”. Our convictions should be right then our conduct will more represent who we are to be. Even though Vandin is only 4 and he may have a difficult time attaching the word conviction to his own feelings, at his age he still has moments where he is aware that his actions are not representative of who is supposed to be or wants to be. He has convictions and experiences conviction as a child. We all do. The choice is whether we will listen and change.

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About Me

I currently serve as Lead Pastor at Open Door Church and I am a certified trainer & coach with the John Maxwell Team. I am also an Associate Trainer with EQUIP training leaders around the world. I currently own two businesses related to the foodservice equipment industry. I am a certified speaker, teacher and coach with the John Maxwell Team. I can offer you workshops, seminars, keynote speaking, and coaching, aiding your personal and professional growth through study and practical application of John’s proven leadership methods. Working together, I will move you and/or your team or organization in the desired direction to reach your goals.