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To Live In the Right Direction, Start Thinking Straight

I grew up in the country in rural Kentucky where giving someone directions usually involved turning right just past the bridge, left after the third dead skunk, and if you see the red barn you went too far. Thankfully, the directions God gives us in His word for living life well are far more explicit. He tells us repeatedly that if we want our lives to move in the right direction, we need to start thinking straight.

Peter said to “prepare your minds for action and exercise self-control. Put all your hope in the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world.” (1 Peter 1:13 NLT) How do you prepare your mind for action?

Peter actually speaks in military terminology here. He says we ought to guard our minds the way a soldier cinches his belt tightly on the way into battle. This gave him a feeling of security and strength. Peter says we are to cinch up our minds for security’s sake. This means establishing healthy boundaries in our thought life – thinking purely and positively and shunning thoughts that are harmful or impure.

Thinking purely is half the battle, and thinking positively is the other half. Peter says we are “hope to the end.” There are two extremes to avoid when it comes to thinking positively. Obviously we need to avoid fatalism – the belief that all is hopeless, there is no God, there is no heaven, and everything is going to turn out badly. On the other hand, we need to avoid idealism – the ability that everything is fine just as it is, sin isn’t a reality, and everybody is basically good.

When the gospel guides our thinking, we are very realistic about sin, its effects, and its potential destructiveness. But we also are extremely positive because our hope is rooted in the redemption of the cross, the victory of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and the certain promise that God will make all things right and keep His word about our eternal home in heaven.

To sum it up… Think. Straight. Forward.

Think Bigger

It doesn’t matter how big you think or dream – God is always thinking bigger. Paul put it this way…

God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us. – Ephesians 3:20 (MSG)

In other words, out beyond the edges of the capacity of the human mind, God knows a reality and possesses capabilities larger than we could even begin to think about.

When you think about how God can use you and what He has planned for your life and the lives of those around you, do you tend to go bigger or smaller? You may struggle to believe in yourself, but believing in the God of the Bible demands that we imagine big, big things and trust Him to bring those big, impossible things to pass for His own glory.

Whatever you’re thinking right now about the future, think bigger.

What is God Thinking? Ask the Holy Spirit

Thinking and PrayingI often remember as a teenager hearing from my parents this classic question: “What were you thinking?!?” You with me? The problem was often that I didn’t really know what I was thinking when I did the dumb thing that sparked the question to begin with, so my answer was almost always, “Ummm, I don’t know.”

Here’s another question: What is God thinking? As a matter of theological grounding, we need to understand that God doesn’t just predict the future, He writes it and knows it intimately. So it isn’t as though anything takes God by surprise. Nonetheless, as we live along the continuum of time, God is said to be thinking things about us. He is dreaming, in a sense, of what we can be when we fully give ourselves over to Him in our relationship with Jesus.

Wouldn’t it be nice to know what God is thinking about you? When you’re at a loss? When you don’t know what’s next or why you’re going through your current circumstances?

God doesn’t owe us any explanations and often chooses to leave us in moments of complete mystery for our own good and for His glory. But He has chosen to gift us with His constant guiding presence through the Holy Spirit. The Bible says this about Him…

And we have received God’s Spirit (not the world’s spirit), so we can know the wonderful things God has freely given us.

– 1 Corinthians 2:12 (NLT)

If you want to explore the full potential of the new life you now have in Jesus, ask God, who has given you His own Spirit as an ever-present guide to the mind of God concerning you. What’s He thinking? Ask Him.

photo credit: pedrosimoes7

3 Ministries of Every Church Staff Member

Some churches view the staff as hired workers. If that is the case in your church, respect your leaders and don’t blame any rebellious attitudes on what I am about to say about this. Other churches view the staff as interdependent creative thinkers and leaders. In the first case, the usual mentality is “anything you aren’t doing for the church should be done ‘off the clock’.” In the second case, the mentality is “everything you do as ministry and mission benefits us as long as your priorities are in order.”

When I was at Saddleback, I learned some pretty great lessons about systems, structures, and staff leadership. In spite of our blessed chaos and the “fast, fluid, and flexible” environment of the southern California megachurch, I learned a ton about leadership and how a church staff can function in a healthy way.

One of the principles Pastor Rick often shared was that every church staff member is expected to fulfill three different ministries, on or off “the clock.”

1. Every church staff member has a ministry to the lost. And our ministry to the lost trumps our other responsibilities every time. We advocate for the lost, relate to the lost, and give our time and energy to bringing lost people to Jesus, first and foremost.

By the way, have you "liked" Grace Hills Church on Facebook yet?

2. Every church staff member has a ministry to the church. It is this second priority that is made first in many churches, probably to the detriment of the creative potential of the staff collectively. We wind up falling into the trap of just doing the work we’re expected to do with little time for independent, creative thinking. Apple, Google, and thousands of other tech startups could teach us some important lessons here about freeing people up to think beyond what currently exists. Gmail, for example, was a product born out of the personal development time granted to some employees who were free to play around on the clock. Today, it’s a core Google component. If we aren’t thinking about the lost and how to creatively reach them as much as we think about getting our jobs done, we’re toast.

3. Every church staff member has a ministry to his or her peers. That is, we have a responsibility to pour into and invest in our parallels. As Pastor Rick put it, Saddleback’s receptionists were to minister to other church receptionists, children’s ministry leaders to other children’s ministry leaders, etc. This is the trickiest of all for established churches who see “outside” ministry interests as competing with the productivity of their own staff. But it boils down to a matter of stewardship. If my church is blessed with knowledge or resources, it’s up to our staff to share that blessing with others. Ministering to our peers keeps us in the company of encouragers, prevents isolation and burnout, keeps me up-to-date and sharp on leadership innovations, and is ultimately good for the kingdom (and heaven knows how we need more kingdom-minded churches!).

It’s a tough shift. If you lead a church to be clock-punching and productivity-obsessed, you’ll get a lot done and perhaps build a larger, more effective church. But if you care about developing people into more influential leaders and growing the kingdom as much as you care about growing your institutional machinery, you’ll at least open yourself to the possibility of releasing your staff to think more about the lost than your church and also spend time investing in their peers.

Graphic background by Zach Fonville.

Good Idea. Now What? Charles Lee Helps Answer This Question

Our Creator designed us to be creative. And out of our inborn creativity come forth plenty of good ideas, but an idea is only as valuable as its successful implementation. In other words, brainstorming is good, but completing ideas is even better. Charles Lee, the founder of the Ideation Consultancy and many other brilliant ideas, helps leaders cross the finish line with well-developed good ideas.

Good Idea. Now What? By Charles LeeIn his new book, Good Idea. Now What?, Charles presents a guidebook that is very thorough, but also very readable. It’s a book for leaders, for thinkers, and for creators. It’s written in such a way that the reader can join in at any point, like a reference book. But it’s also a journey that can be followed on a pathway to creative growth. Here’s what Charles has to say about the book…

Going from inspiration to execution is hard work. Many steps stand between a good idea and the hit product, profitable company, or social change you envision. Your initial “aha!” moment provides the key to begin this process, but it’s the way you make your dream happen that truly defines your success.

Good Idea. Now What? gives you the tools you need to make your inspiration a reality. This accessible go-to guide features practical advice from leading idea-makers that will help you get your vision off the ground.

Personally, I’d recommend getting copies for your church staff, your creative arts team, and if you’re in business, for your leaders. Charles has had some pretty great ideas himself. He’s the creator of grassroots efforts including JustOnethe Idea CampIdeation Conference, and the Freeze Project as well as the co-founder of JustOne. Charles regularly speaks around the country on topics such as creative process, idea-making, innovation, branding, new media, and compassionate justice. And now, you can have his wisdom in print to refer back to when you need an expert’s insight.

Get Your Copy