I had a conversation with a guy the other day who is working through some career choices, trying make it to the top of his profession as quickly as possible. He's at a fun place in life, with a lot of talent and a lot of potential, just waiting for the right time to make his move.

During our conversation I remembered a quote I read several years ago by Jack Welch that really stuck with me. Welch was the long-time CEO of GE whose name is synonymous with the words "leadership" and "management" in some circles. He gave this advice to young leaders:

"If you treat the job you're on today like it's the last job you're ever going to be on, and you do it better than anyobody's ever done it before, I guarantee you won't stay on that job."

It's easy to get focused on the ladder rather than the job. The irony is, the best people to move up are the people who aren't focused on the ladder at all.

You want a promotion? Pretend like you'll never have another promotion and do your job like you're going to do it for the rest of your life. Spend all your time focused on a future job rather than your current job and you're likely to end up with neither.

Focus on the Target, Not the Hazards

I had this all queued up to post today and then Ken said virtually the same thing in his sermon yesterday. Great minds think alike, or more likely, this is something I stole from him in the first place.

One of the reasons golf is the most difficult sport known to man is that the game is almost 100 percent mental. Once you learn the basic fundamentals of a swing the difference between a great golfer and a below-average golfer is between the ears.

When great golfers step up to a ball, they know they are going to make a good shot and hope they can make a great shot. When I step up to the ball, I hope I'll see the ball again.

One of the best lessons I ever learned in golf was to focus on your target, never the things that lie between you and your target. If you stand over the ball and tell yourself, "Don't hit it in the water. Don't hit it in the water. Don't hit it in the water," guess where your ball is going to go? Even if the water is behind you the ball will find its way there.

Sanctification (becoming more like Christ) is the same way. A lot of us try to move through the game of life focused solely on avoiding the hazards. Then we wonder why we end up there so frequently.

Because of the Gospel, we have a new identity in Christ (Ephesians 1-3; Romans 6-7) and the power of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4; Romans 8) which allows us the ability to focus on the target - Christlikeness - with confidence that God has already given us everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). The hazard shapes the shot, but Christlikeness is the focus.


I spent this weekend with the great students from Faith Bible Church in Edmond, Oklahoma talking about the book of Daniel at their student conference. Since my inlaws are in Edmond and my parents are just a few minutes away we decided to make a week out of the conference and spend some extra time with family.

In order to take advantage of the time with our family, I'm going to take a blog hiatus until after Thanksgiving.

Meanwhile, our elders started a blog a couple of months ago. They've worked really hard on it; check it out.

Have a great holiday.

Non-Christians and Unadopted Puppies

Have you ever noticed that many Christian people talk about "non-Christians" the same way we talk about unadopted puppies?

"You need to befriend one."

"They need you to take an interest in them."

"Be intentional when them."

"If you don't love them, who will?"

Maybe that's why in Luke 10, Jesus never answers the man's question "Who is my neighbor?" Instead, Jesus tells the guy a story inviting him to be a neighbor whomever he is around. Seems to me that it is important for us to live the Christ-centered life around everyone we meet - not to show extra kindness to a group of people who meet a certain narrow definition.

Old People, New Focus

A few weeks ago I got to teach what we call our "Prime Timers Class." It's one of my favorite classes to teach in, because the class is full of men and women who have been walking with Christ for longer than my parents have been alive. Some of them have been walking with Christ since before my grandparents were born.

It's easy for younger pastors to marginalize an older generation. It's also easy for an older generation to marginalize a younger generation. My heart is to be a part of a church where many generations are actively celebrating the unique perspectives and gifts of other generations, rather than fighting for their own territory.

We talked about Psalm 71, a Psalm that most scholars attribute to David. Many of the scholars who attribute this Psalm to David believe it was written during the time when a younger generation was literally attempting to marginalize the older generation - David's son Absalom was trying to take his father's throne (2 Samuel 14-18).

The whole Psalm is great, but I love the perspective of the Psalmist. He trusts in God to plead his case (71:2-4) and rehearses God's past faithfulness to Him (71:5-8). He begs that God would not cast him away in his old age (71:9-13) and commits to hope and praise no matter what knowing that God wouldn't waste the years God spent developing him (71:14-17). And I love, love, love the Psalmist's  request in 71:18, right before he begins to worship for the rest of the Psalm:

"Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come."

He isn't focused on preserving or protecting the past - he's not concerned with forms. He says "Don't let me die, Lord, until I've made sure the next generation knows how great you are."

We can discuss forms and styles and volume and traditions, but I'm thrilled to serve a church with a huge contingent of older men and women who are more focused on fighting for a chance to build the future than fighting for a chance to preserve the past.

Positive Contributions

Love this quote by James Boyce, quoted in "The Externally Focused Quest" by Eric Swanson and Rick Rusaw:

"Until we produce our own quality art, our hysterical denunciations of what is admittedly "artistic trash" will fall on deaf ears. Until we show how Christians in government can and should function, being concerned not just for our rights and privileges but for the good of all and with justice for all, we will rightly be ignored.... [Quoting an associate,] "If we have not paid our dues by years of making positive contributions to culture, we simply do not have the cultural clout to pontificate about cultural crises." Only by participating in such cultural endeavors and thus by modeling what we believe can and should be done will we gain a hearing and actually begin to be effective."

What Christ-centered contribution have you made this week?

Incarnational Ministry or Messiah-Complex?

Last week I had a great conversation with one of our staff people about the idea of "Incarnational Ministry." 

Incarnational ministry is a buzz-word used to describe the responsibility of believers to be the "hands and feet" of Christ on the earth.

In my experience, there is a fine line between "incarnational ministry" and a messiah complex. 

It is absolutely true that the church should be the "Body of Christ" (1 Corinthians 12:12-13). We should be Christ's representatives on the earth (2 Corinthians 5:20). 

However, I worry when some of my friends start talking about "being Jesus to the culture" that the unintended consequence is a messiah complex, not incarnational ministry. 

It is Jesus' responsibility to "be Jesus;" it is our responsibility to be good reflections and representatives. There's a fine line there that we don't want to miss.   

Redeeming the Time

Had a neat conversation with a guy I meet with regularly about the concept of "redeeming the time." Paul tells us in Ephesians 5:15-16 to "be careful how you live - not as unwise but as wise, redeeming the time because the days are evil." The NIV translates "redeeming the time" "making the most of every opportunity" which gets at the point but probably doesn't totally capture it.

When you redeem something, you trade something with some value for something that has more personal value to you. For example, when you buy a $20 shirt, you exchange a piece of paper with $20 in value for a shirt that has more value to you than the $20 bill. The store is willing to make the exchange because they value the $20 more than they value hanging onto the shirt. You redeem the shirt by exchanging something with value for something that you perceive to have more value.

In Ephesians 5:15-16, Paul talks about "time" as something that has inherent value. Rather than simply wasting it, he challenges us to make an investment; to exchange the minutes, hours, and days that we have for something we perceive to have more value.

The guy I was talking to this morning is a great example. He spends a couple of hours every week tutoring a kid in partnership with one of the ministries our church supports. Essentially, he is trading those two hours for something he perceives to have more value. Eternal value, in fact.

Rather than simply hanging onto his time and letting it pass through his hands, my friend is choosing to invest it in something he will be able to enjoy millions of years from now. He's making a good investment...

Sexual Detox - Review

It seems like I do two different kinds of marriage counseling as a pastor: (1) the kind where the guy is addicted to pornography and deciding whether or not to leave his wife for a woman he thinks will be "better," and (2) the kind where the guy is addicted to pornography and his wife is deciding whether or not she can ever look at him again.

In truth, I do more marriage counseling than that but the statement above isn't much of an over-reach. When a couple comes in to visit about their marriage, I often just assume it has something to do with porn.

We live in a world and a culture that is almost completely saturated by porn. It's free, virtually omnipresent, and so easily accessible many people with a porn problem first stumbled on it by accident. From George Costanza exchanging suggestive pictures with an unknown seductress to Joey and Chandler celebrating free porn, sitcoms and other media have taken the taboo out of pornography to the point that many men and women feel as if it is something akin to politicians: a reality we wish we could live without, but that probably isn't going anywhere.

This is the culture to which Tim Challies has written "Sexual Detox: A Guide for Guys Who Are Sick of Porn"

Challies is a blogger, book reviewer, and ministry leader who doesn't mince words when it comes to the danger of pornography or of the power of the gospel to heal, restore, and reconcile men who have fallen in this area. Guys who struggle with porn won't find Challies' tone judgmental or condescending; their wives and friends won't find it permissive or acquiescent.

Challies deals with the reality of porn, the effect of porn on a marriage, a frank and biblical "theology of masturbation," and a gospel-centered method for "detoxifying" the bedroom and the soul of the effects of porn.

"Sexual Detox" is written with the concise easy style that is consistent with Challies' skill as a blogger. It won't take more than an hour or two to read and deals with hard issues without being inappropriately graphic in a way that would be counterproductive. So, there shouldn't be any excuses not to read it.

In fact, if you're a ministry leader, dad, or young man over 14 years old, or if you plan to be married to one of those people some day, you need to read this book.

I highly recommend this book, not because the topic is comfortable or particularly interesting, but because it's too big an issue to the hearts and minds of the future to address uninformed.


I've been doing some pre-thinking and reading about the New Testament book of Colossians because we are going to study it as a church next Fall. Colossians 1 might be my favorite chapter in the Bible.

This morning one of our elders sent me this video. It's a powerful visual illustration of what happens when the "Sustainer" is removed.

Colossians 1:17 - "He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together."

When Your Kids Drive You Nuts

Our small group has been reading "Grace Based Parenting" together. I heard Tim Kimmel at a conference a few years ago and really love what he has to say. The study has been a good one for our group.

Last week, one of the girls in our group had some great advice for the group which was connected to Kimmel's observation that your child's greatest strengths are often the things that drive you the most nuts.

What my friend said was this (paraphrasing): "Someone told me a long time ago that we should use our frustration with our kids' tendencies to motivate our prayers. Rather than going nuts because your kid is strong-willed, spend time thanking God for the strong-willed nature in your child and asking Him to allow that strong-willed nature to shine through when your child is 13 or 14 and facing pressure to conform to any number of scary things."

That's great advice I've already put into practice this week. Our oldest has some strong-willed tendencies but is also pretty sensitive and is very cautious when it comes to trying new things. I've spent quite a bit of time praying this week that God will use his sensitive side to shape him into a fantastic friend, while using his strong-willed, cautious nature to make him a bold, wise leader.


I tell people I was a music major in college simply because I looked at the course requirements and didn't see any math classes. That's only partially true... okay, only mostly true. I hated math growing up, particularly pre-calculus. The only single redeeming quality in pre-calculus was that we got to break out our TI-82's from time to time and plot graphs on our calculators. For that reason, and that reason alone, I remember asymptotes.

What's an asymptote? Simple: it's a straight line that is closely approached by a plane curve so that the perpendicular distance between them decreases toward zero as the distance from the origin increases to infinity.

See why I avoided math?

An asymptote describes a curved line that runs closer and closer to a straight line but which will never ever intersect the straight line.

Sanctification (the process of becoming more like Christ) is often just like an asymptote. Think of God's character as the straight line and our character as the curved line. When we first trust Christ, we seem to be becoming more and more like Christ in a hurry. But the longer our journey goes, the more we begin to realize that there's never a point at which the lines will intersect in this lifetime. Thus, as we mature, the change is not nearly as dramatic.  

Sometimes this is frustrating for believers who long for the good old days when they were changing like crazy. But as I talk to people who are further along in the sanctification process I've realized something: the more mature you get the more you stop caring as much about the degree of progress and focus instead on your nearness to the straight line.

Your focus changes. Rather than thinking about who you used to be, the focus becomes who you will be. So even though change is less dramatic, it's sure and steady, approaching the straight line more and more every day.


A friend of mine recommended "Drive" by Daniel Pink on the golf course the other day. Since there was nothing redeemable about my golf game, I figured I should take his recommendation so I had something to show for the day.

The subtitle for "Drive" is "The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us." As the title would suggest, it's a book about how to motivate people, primarily employees, to do their best work. But, the title is deceiving on some levels: the truth about what motivates us is only surprising to an older generation of employers familiar with a different paradigm. Young executives, companies, and non-profits follow this book's advice almost intuitively.

The long story short: according to Pink the old model of motivation that depended on carrots and sticks are not only not helpful as motivators, they can be harmful. Instead, Pink's research has found that employees are best motivated when they have the ability to direct their own lives, the ability to improve at something that truly matters, and the ability to be a part of something bigger than themselves (autonomy, mastery, and purpose).

So long as pay and benefits are fair and equitable, money and benefits cease to be a good motivator for people over the long-term. They become unquenchable thirsts; they're never enough. At best, they cause employees to care less about doing a good job for the sake of a job well done (what self-respecting person would work harder unless the carrot keeps advancing too). At worst, they cause people to be unethical and dishonest.

Instead, companies with employees who thrive are companies who find a way to empower their employees to be as autonomous as possible, continuously improve their skills, and view the scope of their responsibilities in light of something that truly matters.

Pink's book is good, and based on fascinating research. The primary thrust of the book is on the science behind the theory, but the book isn't highly technical or a difficult read. The last part of the book gives a "toolkit" of ideas for leaders who want to grow in this area. If you are in a position of authority and need to motivate people well, "Drive" is definitely a book you'll want to pick up.

Global Missions: Deep or Wide?

There's a fairly big movement among churches these days in the area of global missions. Rather than supporting several different global partners in several different locations, churches are choosing to focus their involvement in just a few areas. They argue that this pattern allows them to go "deep rather than just wide."

The idea is this: If the church focuses on one specific area, they can streamline all their resources (time, talent and treasure) and invest all their energy in a specific area to make a more lasting impact. Many churches identify strategic global partners that are congruent with local opportunities (for example, a church in a community with a large Vietnamese population would focus global partnerships in Vietnam). Bob Roberts at Northwood Church has even coined a term for this kind of philosophy: he calls it "glocal."

I love a lot of the ministry these churches are doing, and certainly don't want to say anything that would disparage it. But, I feel like the choice between deep and wide is a sucker choice - a false dilemma.

I feel like you can go deep and wide with a breadth of partnerships, provided the church is actually engaged in partnerships. 

If your church wants to be intimately involved in every aspect of the ministry, you can't do that with a breadth of partnerships. But then again, that's not really partnership; it's just an extension of your authority and presence overseas.

If your church wants to come alongside people who are having great ministry in a specific context in a way that postures the church to respond to the individual needs of those ministries and be involved in their work, there is no reason the church can't do that for a breadth of partners. If you choose partners who are good at partnering and combine that with a philosophy of true partnership, there is no reason the church can't go deep and wide at the same time.

God is at work all over the world. I love the ability McKinney Church has to truly partner with dozens of people in dozens of locations doing dozens of different types of ministry. It allows our people the freedom to  choose to engage in partnerships that are particularly meaningful to them while providing regular reminders of the breadth of what God is up to in a variety of contexts.