Preparing a sermon is one of the most gratifying and the most difficult tasks you’ll ever face. There is joy in finding meaning in the text, in finding structure, in developing just the right outline, in discovering the perfect illustration. But there is also labor and, at times, intense spiritual warfare.
Did a 4-year-old boy from Nebraska really visit heaven? I don’t know. My hunch is that the popularity of such stories tells us more about our view of God than the place in which he dwells. Ultimately I believe we flock to gauzy, feel-good depictions of heaven and tiptoe around the biblical passages mentioned above because we’ve lost sight of God’s holiness. I fear we’ve sentimentalized heaven and by extension its primary occupant. I worry the modern understanding of God owes more to Colton Burpo than the prophet Isaiah. And I think this one-sided portrayal diminishes our experience of God. We can’t truly appreciate God’s grace until we glimpse his greatness. We won’t be lifted by his love until we’re humbled by his holiness.
I have found myself thinking back to the many models of fatherhood I have seen and admired through the years. What made these fathers admirable? What set them apart? What was it that they said to their children? From these models I have drawn seven things a good father says.
In his book The Catalyst Leader, Brad Lomenick lists some great practices to be an authentic leader:
Practice self-awareness. Before you can release your true self you have to recognize your true self. Too many people refuse to accept and even name their weaknesses, struggles, and pitfalls. As a result, they accept a version of themselves they believe others will like better. Understand who you really are.
Question yourself. I encourage leaders to evaluate their self-acceptance with honest questions: Whose attention do you crave? Are you chasing the approval of friends, colleagues, and customers? What is it you don’t like about yourself, and how can that shortcoming also be a strength? Self-diagnosis can lead to self-discovery, which is the only path to authenticity.
Move from self-promotion to storytelling. I can appreciate the effort made by individuals in the public eye to shape their personal brands. But I also worry about the effects this can have on living an authentic life. If you want to be a change maker, begin to see public outlets as places for sharing your personal story.
Resist the urge to create a digital alter ego. Refuse to hide behind a website or Facebook page. Instead, adopt the mind-set of Claire Diaz Ortiz, social innovation director for Twitter: “Social media is not just about being connected. It’s about being transparent, intimate, and honest.”
Learn to laugh at yourself. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Instead, grow comfortable enough with who you are to laugh and laugh often. When you are able to accept and even chuckle at your blunders and mess-ups, others will too. And this common experience will help you bond with them.
Build a support network. Beware of the temptation to surround yourself with flatterers who only tell you what you want to hear. Keep honest people in your life that can help you stay grounded and keep from thinking you’ve arrived.
Be interested over interesting. Be more concerned with listening instead of talking. Focus on others, not yourself.
The Catalyst Leaderby Brad Lomenick was an incredible leadership book. I don’t know how else to qualify this book. If you are a leader, or hope to be a leader, this book is one you need to read this year.
In this book, Lomenick uncovers the 8 things leaders today must do to be who God created them to be. Even though this book is marketed as a book for younger leaders (and if you’re under 30 you should read this), it is for a leader of any age.
One of the things I’ve been chewing on is this
To get to the top and to be successful at the top requires two different skill sets.
In fact, after reading this book it made my goals for growth in 2014 obvious to me.
Here are a few highlights:
We must never compare our beginning to someone else’s ending.
When people lead well, they are more likely to finish well.
Ambition must be grounded in wisdom. Inspiration must be pursued with integrity. Dreams must be built with boundaries. And passions need the steady hand of principles to guide them.
The right thing said in the wrong way is the wrong thing.
Without knowledge of one’s calling, leading well is impossible.
Leaders who make the biggest impact also have the strongest sense of calling.
A great lesson about leadership: I’m best when I’m being me.
If we don’t learn to be content with who God has made us and called us to be, then we will never reach our potential as influencers.
We must grow comfortable with who we are before we can share that person with others.
God is more interested in the sanctity of his people than the success of our ministries.
The best leaders is that they have the ability to “make it happen” and get something over the finish line.
Part of being a disciplined leader is being ready.
The most influential platforms today revolve around sharing and generosity.
The time has come for you to be who God has called you to be, to live out His purpose for your life.
Never let your ambition force you to create a false self. As you lead, share the real you with others.
Root yourself in an untamable love for God. Seek Him first, and let Him handle the lesser things.
As you pursue this calling, make excellence a nonnegotiable. God deserves your best.
When the time comes to take a risk or make a difficult decision, push through the fear. He’ll sustain you.
Let your convictions and principles steady you. Hold fast to your integrity, discipline, and humility.
When stress runs high and difficulties arise, keep hoping. Remember that with God on your side, a better tomorrow is possible.
Build bridges, not walls, with those around you. There’s power in partnerships.
And finally, don’t believe the lie that you are the center of the universe. Seek out older leaders who can help grow you, encourage you, and guide you.
And then pour your life into others.
In his book The Catalyst Leader, Brad Lomenick lists some great questions to ask as you discern God’s will and God’s call on your life:
What are your passions and gifts? At the intersection of these two elements, you’ll find your purpose in life.
What would you work on or want to do for free? That is usually a good sign of what God has designed you to do.
What energized you when you were a child? Does it still animate you? Knowing your calling is often directly connected to childhood passions and gifts.
If you could do anything and take a pay cut, what would that be? You may have to blow up your financial goals in order to pursue your true calling.
What barriers are preventing you from pursuing your true calling? Can you begin removing those?
If you aren’t engaging your gifts and talents where you find yourself now, could you make changes in your current role to better engage those? Don’t rule out the possibility that where you are is where you need to be.