The Opportunity of Limited Resources

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“My number-one theory is that style is proportional to your lack of resources – the less you have, the more stylish you’re likely to be.” (Beth Ditto)

Many of us live with the desire of having more resources at our disposal.  We think, if only I had more time, money, education, property, etc., then I could reach my full potential and accomplish great things.  While having abundant resources can certainly provide opportunities, the paradoxical truth is that limited resources are much more likely to produce good fruit in our lives.

Think for a moment about those you know who have access to seemingly unlimited resources.  What have those resources done for them?  In many cases, access to such resources allows a person to become entitled, lazy, self-centered, and aimless.  That isn’t the case for all people, but that’s why David Rockefeller said, “When you have a lot of resources, the most important thing is to have had good parents and to have been brought up by people who gave one the proper values.”  In a resource-rich environment, personal growth actually goes against the grain.

Compare that to some of the great success stories of our era.  World War 2, with its accompanying austerity, produced the Greatest Generation.  Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak started Apple Computer in their garage.  Andrew Carnegie was born into poverty, and created an expansive commercial steel empire, making him one of the world’s richest men.  Albert Einstein’s father’s company went out of business.  For many people, their lack of resources became the crucible in which genius and industry were formed.

Here are just a few of the character traits fostered by limited resources:

  • Creativity: One with limited resources must learn to use them creatively to achieve their desired goals.
  • Perseverance: Without external resources, one’s internal resources of determination, conviction, and willpower are stretched
  • Focus: Tough decisions must be made, and greater focus is put on true values and priorities
  • Stewardship: Nothing is wasted when resources are scarce
  • Courage: Hardship inspires us to take risks for our desired vision

So stop thinking of your limited resources as a roadblock.  What are your limited resources making possible for you?  How can you grow as a person because of the difficult circumstances you are in?

5 Valuable Podcasts for Christian Leaders

podcastChristian leaders often find themselves in the position of giving – constantly.  If we give so much of ourselves, and never refuel, we will eventually burn out and become ineffective at what we are called by God to do.  This is why it is so valuable to always be learning.  Only learners can be leaders for the long haul.

There are many sources of learning we can take advantage of: reading books, meeting with mentors, watching videos, etc.  But one problem with all of these is accessibility.  Reading requires your eyes to be available, mentoring requires your schedules to connect, and videos require your computer to be open.  One antidote to this issue of availability is podcasting.  It doesn’t require anything extra to learn from some great teachers and apply those lessons to your leadership.

For me, this means that every time I get in the car, walk from one place to another, or have a few minutes in the bathroom, I am usually listening to some great content on my phone and reflecting on how I can grow.

Here are some of my favorite podcasts for Christian leaders.  I hope you enjoy.

  1. Andy Stanley Leadership Podcast – Andy is the lead pastor at North Point Community Church, and is an outstanding communicator and leader.  I also recommend his book, Communicating for a Change.
  2. Catalyst Podcast – Catalyst is a conference for young Christian leaders, and they have some great interviews with prominent figures in the Christian world.  The podcast hosts try too hard to seem laid back and casual (ie. wasting time), but overall it’s great content.
  3. Perry Noble Leadership Podcast – I love Perry Noble.  He is the senior pastor at NewSpring Church and he tells it like it is, no holds barred.
  4. Exponential Podcast – Exponential is a conference for church planters, and a lot of their break-out sessions get turned into podcasts, offering hundreds of sessions that we can learn from.
  5. This Is Your Life (Michael Hyatt) – Michael is the former CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, and he brings a wealth of experience to his podcast devoted to intentional leadership.

Up/Down

In recent years, I have become increasingly aware of the effects of mental illness on people’s lives, and no less so in the church.  Christians are just as vulnerable as anyone to mental illness, but many feel ashamed to share those struggles, wondering if they will be rejected or judged by others.  Because of this, the lives of those afflicted with mental illness often remain shrouded to churchgoers, and we have no idea how to respond when people share their stories with us.

I am thankful that awareness of mental illness is growing among Christians, but it comes at a very high cost.  I have lost count of how many people have shared the pain of depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, etc. with me as a pastor, and I feel privileged to counsel and pray for these people who God loves so much.  But for many, the isolation, shame, and alienation from others is debilitating and overwhelming, and all too often results in a tragic loss.  In a world struggling to cope with the painful reality of mental illness, the church must be able to demonstrate compassion, acceptance, and understanding in a way that reflects the love of Jesus.

With millions of people in the United States affected by mental illness, it is almost certain that you know someone, or several people, who are trying to deal with it.  We have a duty to love them, and it is hard to love if we do not understand.  That’s why it encouraged me to discover this documentary on bipolar disorder entitled “Up/Down”.  Please watch it.

4 Keys to Effective Reflection

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“Without reflection, we go blindly on our way, creating more unintended consequences, and failing to achieve anything useful.” (Margaret J. Wheatley)

When we live unreflective lives, we sentence ourselves to repeat the mistakes of the past and forego any growth into the future.  I have been rediscovering the value of reflection in recent weeks, and I want to share some things I have learned that can help anyone spend more effective time in reflection.

  1. Defined time and space: With our hectic lives, if something is not scheduled, it will not happen.  It is helpful to decide on a place and time to reflect in, and put it in your calendar with a reminder/alert.  My most frequent locations are my home office, a cafe, my car, or walking outside, but anywhere that is comfortable, quiet, or inspiring to you will work well.
  2. Specific questions: Sitting down with the goal of “reflecting” is an aimless pursuit.  What do you need to reflect about?  Deciding on 1-2 questions to focus on will produce much more effective results from your reflection.  For example: How can I invest in stronger relationships?  What are my highest priorities right now, and how are they going?  What are the next steps forward in my life/career/education?  Who has made a big impact on my life recently?
  3. Tangible decisions: The benefit of reflecting is not in the refection itself, but in the results that come afterward.  Effective reflection will produce greater awareness of one’s strengths, weaknesses, and areas of needed growth.  Translating that awareness into tangible actions and commitments is what will bring real growth and change in a person’s life.  For example: My friends are valuable to me, but they are getting crowded out of my life, so I will schedule regular hangouts to catch up with them.
  4. Journaling: Unless you have a perfect memory, the reflections and decisions produced during this time will be quickly forgotten.  Valuable time, energy, and inspiration have been lost!  The remedy to this is to develop a habit of journaling during or immediately after you reflect.  Personally, I use Evernote for this, since it is easily accessible on all of my devices and can be searched for tags and keywords later, but pen-and-paper still work as well as anything.

When we put even minimal time into effective reflection, we will reap enormous benefits in personal growth and productivity.  What are some ways that you have benefited from personal reflection?

Where is the third Person?

I’ve realized recently that there is a big shortage of good teaching on the Holy Spirit.  It’s quite strange that the third Person of the Trinity, one of the main characters throughout Scripture, is either ignored by many cessationists (those who believe that the work of the Spirit was confined to the time of the apostles, based on a poor interpretation of 1 Corinthians 13), or sensationalized through unbiblical teaching by some pentecostals (not all pentecostal teaching is bad, but I’ve read some that has no basis in the Bible).  This is a generalization, but the more that I read from various traditions, I believe that the source of both the neglect and the sensationalism of the Holy Spirit are rooted in a lack of strong biblical teaching through the course of church history.

I took a theology course recently which was structured around the Nicene Creed.  This is a very important creed in Christian history, and it speaks significantly about God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ.  But when speaking of the Holy Spirit, the creed is limited to:

“And in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of life, who proceedeth from the Father, who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified, who spake by the prophets.”

All we know of the Holy Spirit here is that He gives life (thus being involved in the work of creation), He is worshiped as a Person of the Trinity, and He spoke (in the past) through the prophets.  When reading the Bible, especially the New Testament, this seems like a ridiculously small scope of the Holy Spirit’s work.  I’m in no position to write a theology textbook, but here are a few obvious roles of the Holy Spirit taught in the Bible:

  1. Creator (Genesis 1:2, Job 33:4) – The Holy Spirit is involved in the work of creation.
  2. Prophetic Voice (1 Samuel 10:10, Acts 13:2, 2 Peter 1:21) – He speaks through people with prophetic words (even today!).
  3. Visions (Ezekiel 11:24, Joel 2:28, Acts 2:17, Acts 10:9-23) – The Holy Spirit gives people supernatural visions (even today!).
  4. Seal of Salvation (Romans 8:9, Ephesians 1:13, 1 Corinthians 6:19) – He dwells within believers and marks them as belonging to Christ.
  5. Incarnation (Matthew 1:18) – He caused the virgin conception of Jesus Christ in Mary.
  6. Baptism (Mark 1:8, Acts 1:5, Acts 10:47) – He completes the internal spiritual work of baptism.
  7. Counselor & Teacher (John 14:26) – The Holy Spirit counsels and teaches us as we follow Christ.
  8. Empowering (Acts 1:8, Acts 4:31) – He gives us spiritual power, enabling us to boldly live for God.
  9. Guide (Acts 16:6) – The Holy Spirit gives us practical guidance and direction.
  10. Unity (Ephesians 4:13) – He unites us in fellowship with one another.
  11. Gifts (1 Corinthians 12-14, Exodus 31:3, Ephesians 4:11-13) – The Holy Spirit gifts us for ministry.
  12. Sanctifies (2 Thessalonians 2:13, 1 Peter 1:2) – The Holy Spirit purifies us and empowers us to live holy lives.

This isn’t even an exhaustive list.  The point is, I rarely see good writing or teaching on the role of the Holy Spirit in the everyday lives of Christians.  It’s as if we should be content to simply know that He exists, that He made some people prophecy in the past, and that’s it.  It’s not surprising the He is often referred to as “the forgotten third Person of the Trinity”.  I think this not only dishonors God and grieves the Holy Spirit, but also hinders believers from fully living out their faith.  We can do nothing without God, and it is our communion with, reliance upon, and connection to the Holy Spirit that enables us to be obedient to God’s will and build His kingdom.