One (more) Thing I Got Wrong

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I was recently in a meeting where someone talked about the product vs the process. I googled it, obviously to find out some rock-solid information, and most it pointed to teaching children’s art. Absolutely, that makes sense. When I’m nine, I should be learning about the process of making art. We all know my drawing (if you can even call it that) might not be worthy of the fridge, much less the museum. But if I can get at practicing, if I can learn the correct processes, there’s a chance I may learn enough to begin putting together things that might be worth looking at in the future.

But now I’m 32, No more art classes for me. Does this apply to other aspects of my life? How? Perhaps, the idea of the process needs to be developed beyond my 3rd grade art class. One place that has stuck out to me is in the place of Crucial Conversations. Everyday, we have conversations that make or break relationships, products and organizations. These crucial conversations are much more manageable when we 1) learn a healthier process, and 2) act in ways that are conducive to engaging in ongoing relationship.

Crucial Conversations are one example of how important the process is. Let’s continue caring about the end product, but realize that the process is equally as important.


Judgment and Hope: A 5 Week Series on Isaiah

As church leadership, we recently felt drawn to the book of Isaiah. Sometimes, the Old Testament can feel distant for Christians. However, it’s as relevant today as it was when Isaiah wrote it thousands of years ago. His words are a reminder of God’s majesty, holiness, judgment and hope. He’s the Almighty God, the beginning and the end. There’s no other God like him. We’re all invited to a closeness with Him. Over five weeks, we discussed the implications of Isaiah’s 66 chapters for us as a community. Here are a few of my favorite points from the series. You can also watch the sermons on our Facebook Life Feed.

  • Isaiah is a “Little Bible.” It has 66 chapters just like the Bible has 66 books. The first 39 (as many chapters as there are books in the Old Testament) focus on the judgment of God and lay a foundation for God’s restoration and hope. The last 27 (as many as there are books in the New Testament) focus on the hope and restoration of God along with His epic plan for humanity. Isaiah’s narrative and prophetic words fit in the greater context of Scripture; written over thousands of years, the narrative of the Bible points to one person as the Savior of the world: Jesus. “Isaiah” means “The Lord Saves.”
  • Isaiah is preeminently the Messianic prophet. This means he prophesied about the Messiah (Christ). More than any other Old Testament prophet, Isaiah foretold the coming of Christ (2:1-4; 4:2-6; 7:14-15; 11:1 – 12:6; 24:21-23; 25:6-8; 26:1-2; 27:12-13; 30:18-26; 32:1-7,16-20; 33:17-24; 35:1-10; 42:1-9; 49:1 – 55:13; 60:1 – 62:12; 66:18-24).
  • God is big. He’s powerful and strong (40:12). God created us and knows us (43:7). He knows what’s best for us (10:15). People have rebelled against the way God originally intended us (1:5, 59:3). to be, and this rebellion has come at a cost (53:5-6, 1:2-5). There is judgment (24:1). God sows a seed of hope in our lives (51:5, 57:10, 60:9). Jesus is our Sure Hope (7:14, 8:8). We are chosen to share that Sure Hope with others around us (6:8, 49:6, 60:3). God’s ultimate plan is redemption and restoration into the family of God and the establishment of a new heaven and new earth (60:19-22, 66:22-23).
  • Isaiah had unique access to the rulers of Israel at the time and was able to be highly influential because of the place in which God put him.
  • In an increasingly unclear and confused society, God uses Isaiah to bring clarity to our situation. There are two kinds of people: those who are following God and those who are not. It’s not our job to convince God to be on our side. He’s already established His side in Jesus. It’s our job to make sure we’re on His side by submitting to His will in every situation.
  • In the story of Hezekiah listed in 36-39 (also in 2 KIngs 18-20), we come to understand an ongoing plot issue that the Israelites, and ultimately all of us struggle with. Reliance on God in the midst of trials and judgments. Don’t rely on other people or other gods (36-37), yourself (38), or your treasure/accomplishments (39).
  • God is clear that there are judgments: past (like Noah and the flood, Genesis 5-6), present (we are to judge each other in the church, 1 Corinthians 11) and future judgments (the book of revelation). His judgment is meant to bring us back to Him and right living. It’s meant for restoration, like the good discipline of a father.
  • We have hope, the knowledge that God will come through, because of His Character (Isaiah 40:1-8), His past works (Isaiah 43:1-7), and His current work (Isaiah 43:18-21).
  • Our response to God is to draw near and wait on Him (Isaiah 40:28-31).
  •  If God is who He says He is; if He’s a righteous judge and the giver of hope, then what is our response His hope in our lives? We are to respond to the Holy Seed (Isaiah 6:13) placed in us by living lives of holiness before Him.
  • Personal holiness means that we put off our old self (Isaiah 44:13-20, Ephesians 4:23-32).
  • Community holiness means we live out the fruit of the Spirit (Isaiah 54:1-5, Galatians 5:13-26).
  • Missional holiness means we shine our light (Isaiah 49:6) and preserve God’s justice (Isaiah 56:1-2) by sharing the gospel (Philippians 1:27).
  • God has given us work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 1:2-3).
  • God will judge us according to two things: 1) our actions, and 2) our hearts. You can’t divide these two things.
  • Jesus came as the perfect example of life lived in and held onto hope.

This is Crucial…

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“Crucial” is defined as “decisive or critical, especially in the success or failure of something.” If something is crucial, it means, we better pull it off, or we can expect failure of the project, relationship, and even society. There’s a crucial happening going on around us as a generation.

I recently perused a book called “Crucial Accountability,” written by the same people who wrote Crucial Conversations, Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, Al Switzler, and David Maxfield. In this text, the authors propose that everyday around us are opportunities for conversations, particularly regarding accountability, that either never happen or aren’t done well. As a result, our families, friendships, workplaces, organizations and ultimately our societies suffer. Instead, they argue, we can use these crucial conversations and opportunities for accountability to help those around us thrive. As our relationships thrive, our workplaces will hit more of the goals we’ve set out. Employee morale will improve. Society will advance.

I know it’s a big premise, but I see it clearly happening in my context. The times when I avoid an accountability conversation are the times when those around me suffer. They suffer because they don’t grow. They suffer because the job doesn’t get done. They suffer because someone else has to pick up the slack. Morale goes down. We miss the mark of the vision we have as an organization. We fail to walk in excellence. We miss out on the best that we could be experiencing.

I believe part of this struggle is the result of a societal draw to avoid difficult conversations and a lie that’s said, “You can’t judge me.” The truth is we’re called to judge right from wrong, we’re called to hold each other to a higher standard. I don’t regret people holding me accountable. So why do I fail to do that to others? Perhaps, it’s fear. Perhaps, it’s being overly busy. Perhaps, it’s any number of things. But I know this: it’s going to change.

I want to commit to holding those around me accountable for their best. I once heard another pastor say accountability is helping someone “account for their ability.” You have a great ability and a destiny. I’m robbing you of that destiny by not challenging you to your best. I’m also hurting our organization by not challenging you to more. You’re here for a reason. Let’s move forward together. Here are a couple headlines from Crucial Conversations. If these peak your interest, I’d encourage you to get a copy of the text and read it for yourself!

  • Consider “what” and “if.” Decide if it’s necessary to have the conversation.
  • Master your stories and the stories of everyone involved. Understand the situation as a whole.
  • Describe the gap. Explain the gap that exists between what you thought was to happen and what actually happened. Make it a safe space. Share your path. End with question.
  • Make it motivating. Perhaps, they aren’t motivated to close the gap. Figure out the deeper issues regarding motivation.
  • Make it easy. Perhaps, they aren’t capable of closing the gap. Help them discover reasons why they aren’t capable.
  • Stay focused and flexible. As new problems arise from discussion, stay focused on the original problem or be flexible to address a new area first and then come back to the original problem.
  • Agree on a plan together.
  • Deal with the “Yeah, buts.”

I look forward to utilizing many of these tips and pointers in my conversations with my team and others around me. I’m excited to see how we can develop a culture of accountability. Here’s to people living life to the best of their ability!

How I Changed My Day

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We all have them: tough days. Maybe you didn’t get enough sleep the night before, or you’ve been struggling with a sickness, or your boss seems to be on your case more these days, or you’ve hit a rough spot in a friendship or romantic relationship.  Over the past few months, Jamie and I have been having some rough times. Nothing really bad, but just a few little things that seem to add up.

But recently, we ran into this helpful blog, and this particular blog entry. In it The Backlund’s share tips and pointers for how we can live as people of hope. Hope is one of the greatest things we can have in life. Hope reminds us that we are safe and secure. Hope encourages us to keep going. Hope gives us new perspective to see things differently.

So, we decided to take the Wendy Backlund’s advice and start saying these phrases:

  • Instead of “I have to,” say “I get to,”
  • Instead of “This is hard,” say” This is easy and fun.”
  • Instead of “I don’t have enough,” say “My best is more than enough.”
  • Instead of “Ugh, I’m so tired,” say “I love moving my body.”

Managing self-talk is a key to winning the war for your mind transformed. And the transformed mind is the key to supernatural breakthrough in your life (Romans 12:2).

The same day I committed to these a few interesting things happened:

  • I was more joyful.
  • I became more cognizant of God speaking with me throughout the day.
  • My eyes felt more open and less droopy.
  • I had a clearer head (even with a small headache coming on from a potential cold).
  • I noticed an issue that I wished I could improve and thoughts came to me regarding how to change the situation.
  • I had more patience with coworkers.
  • The attitude in a meeting that sometimes can feel boring was instead full of excitement and expectation about what God wanted to do during the week.
  • I finished more tasks, and more meaningful tasks, than I typically do.

I encourage you to give it a try! For a more extensive option, check out this one: Morning Declarations. Here’s to Hope!

“You Tricked Me”

I fully expected someone to say that to me on Sunday as I remarked about what we were doing at the baptism and commissioning service. 90 people gathered on a local beach to celebrate to of our Aroman community members making the step of baptism and a third dedicating herself to five years of mission service at a YWAM base in another part of Taiwan. What an amazing event. I love being a part of celebrations like this. You see when I go to baby dedications, baptisms, commissioning services,weddings, etc. I am usually thinking about that person, all the work they’ve done or are planning to do, and perhaps even thinking about how I don’t have to do that. If I were to be honest, I’m more of a bystander when I go to those events.

But my heart was saying something else to our people on Sunday, and I believe it was in line with the heartbeat of God. A baptism, a commissioning service, a wedding are all celebrations in the context of COMMUNITY, meaning, we have A COMMON UNITY. All of the people gathered around us at the beach on Sunday were there to cheer on our friends as they got baptized and publicly acknowledged their commitments to follow Christ. But as a church, we had a commit to make as well. We can’t get off that easy.

They say it takes a village to raise a child. The same logic applies to a newly dedicated baby, a baptized person, someone leaving to a distant land to be a missionary, and a couple getting married. We’re here for you, or at least, we should be. We’re her to pray, to encourage, to exhort, to hold you to your commitment and to supply you with the resources you need to do it in excellence.

The next time you attend a celebration like one of these, don’t be tricked. You’re not a bystander or a mere consumer. You play a vital role in ensuring these person or people excel and fulfill everything to which they are committing. Don’t look to someone else. You’re here for such a time as this.

Grace that Requires Repentance

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As her face mask soaked up the tears that ran down her cheek, she presented her flower, took a bow, and gave a speech regarding how he had touched her life. My friend recently lost a family member and I was asked to attend the funeral. In traditional Taiwanese funerals, there’s a lot of sacrificing to and worshiping the deceased. It’s an attempt to help them pass effectively into the afterlife and get through to the best scenario possible.

But my friend didn’t do that. She has been following Jesus for a few years now. At this funeral, she had a big choice to make. In the Bible Jesus says we follow Him and leave everything else behind. But the culture outside, even her own flesh and blood family, were, in some ways, pressuring  her to do otherwise. They wanted her to bend her knee, to burn incense, and express that her family member was, in a sense, her god.

How did she handle this situation? I know this would be something incredibly difficult for me. In my heart I know that God wants me to worship him only. But my mind would be racing with the ramifications of what people might think of me or what it might mean for my future. It sounds like something many people in Scripture and throughout history have had to face. In every person’s life, and often more than once, we are asked to make a decision. Jesus said, “Follow me” (Matthew 4:19). Then, he said, “Pick up your cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24-26). Then, he said, “Be first: be a slave” (Matthew 20:26-27). The further Jesus goes in his ministry, the more aggressively he calls us to self-less character. In other places, the Bible even says bending your knee is a big deal (1 Kings 19:18, Romans 11:4, Philippians 2:10). When we bend our knee, we are showing our honor, respect and worship. We are saying whatever we bend to has authority over us. When my friend chose not to bend her knee, she spoke volumes to me, and to Jesus. In some ways, it may have been ok if she went through the motions of this as a way to honor her family. We often think that grace means we can get away with more. In contrast, it seems to me Jesus is saying, “Grace calls you to more than the law would have.” I was more deeply touched by her willingness to be different even when it wasn’t accepted. She operated in a transforming grace that transcended the situation she was in. When she chose not to raise the incense to her family member, she became the Aroma of Christ to God (2 Corinthians 2:15). Her entire life became a beautiful sacrifice that was both holy and pleasing to her creator and sustainer.

I sometimes think “following” means I need to do a little extra work on the weekend, or being nice to someone who bothers me a bit. I’ve never experienced anything like this. But as I watched my friend stand strong in the face of this impossible difficulty, my heart grew stronger. Her time in that funeral procession became an act of worship for her and a call to repentance and action for me. Have I truly given everything over to God? Am I willing to follow Jesus even at the expense of my personal dignity? Am I willing to speak the truth in love even when it’s not popular? Am I able to hold fast to Scripture’s truth? Will I be great? Will I be first? It means, then, that I’m to be a servant and a slave. It means nothing else matters.

To my friend: your honor on this day has multiplied. You might not feel all of the results of it until the end of time, but you have given honor and glory to God and He is well-pleased with your sacrifice. You are The Aroma of Christ. I hope all of us can have the strength you had as we face the adversities life brings us.

a task, A Person, A VISION

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That’s usually how I think about my life. I have a nice long task list. Each day I take it out (on my phone through an app called “Asana”) and think about the priorities I have. I push forward and try to finish a few things each day.

Then, there’s people. I do a lot of 1 on 1’s. And I’m in a lot of meetings. I enjoy most of the meetings I’m in, even the ones with difficult conversations, because I know that people are more important than tasks.

But most of all is the vision. I once heard a respected leader say, “No task is more important than a person. And no person is more important than the vision.” The outworking of the quote is this: you shouldn’t get your undies in a bundle if a task is screwed up. You should take steps to prevent it from happening again. You should offer support and accountability. You should hold people to the responsibilities they’ve agreed to. At the same time, if someone is consistently under-performing in an area, you have to have the courage to realize that they’re like of achievement might be costing the realization of the vision. There comes a time when leadership has to be responsible to reorganize the people so that the vision can be realized.

I like to consider myself a visionary type of person, so it’s encouraging to know that the amount of time I spend obsessing over the vision of our work and the culture we’re living out through isn’t going to waste. That being said, I recently realized that I have another step to take personally. As I’ve reviewed the last few months, I’ve realized that one person who has consistently under-performed in the coffee shop and church is me. I’m not angry. I’m not depressed. But I am more committed to the vision than I am to the title of lead pastor and coffee shop owner. It’s more important for me to see the vision of helping people smell, become and spread the Aroma being realized.

As such, I’ve decided to get to the reorganizing. Over the next few months, I’ll be transitioning my role in leadership, making space for excellence to rise up and move forward in the vision and mission of Aroma.

So, what are you going to do about it? Where is your focus? Is your head in the tasks? Can you pull back to focus on people? Are you capable of carrying a vision that transcends even a person. Are you willing to fire even yourself if it comes to that?