You Might Be Committing an Unforgivable Sin

Apple CoreThere is one unforgivable sin, and I have an idea that I may have just committed it. I checked my email first thing. I didn’t mean to do it. I had even begun to write this blog post saying that you should never do it, but then I needed to send a leader a file and the easiest way was to attach it to an email. And then, in all the naked glory of email, I had four or five emails, strikingly bold, telling me that they were deliciously unread, and like the lure of the last moist brownie, I wanted to take a closer look.

This post isn’t about email at all. This post is about living out the call God has on you. You may disagree but I think it is hard to know EXACTLY what God’s call is on your life, but the call that I recognize at the moment is to live out the Three R’s — Reading, Writing, and Running. At the top, I feel compelled that I should write every day.

But I can guarantee you that if I were to make a list of the top 5 urgent things I have to do today (and by the way, I do make that list), writing is rarely on the list, and only appears when I have not written anything for a week and a blog post is due.

My point is this: If God wants me to do one thing today, it is write. If I check my email, there are five other people who want me to do anything but write. If I read their email, I will be compelled to be responsible, to impress them, to please them, to give them reasons to like me, to help them, to encourage them, to love them, to grieve with them, … All good things. But I will have put off the one thing God has asked me to do.

The unforgivable sin is blaspheming the Holy Spirit. So I ask you, if the Holy Spirit compels me to write and instead I’m compelled by others (via email or phone), then have I just committed a sin? Don’t over react to the sin being unforgivable. I am being dramatic, but it is certainly a sin not to live into what God has designed for me.

You might suggest I could write later in the day. I won’t. Just as I won’t run later in the day. If I’m going to run, it will be the first thing I do… before breakfast, before a shower, before coffee, after going to the bathroom. I won’t run later. I will read later. That is the one thing I can put off.

Timothy Gallwey wrote this unique coaching model in The Inner Game of Work.

P = p – i

Performance = potential – interference

Email is interference. I’d like to have strict rules on when I check email (such as only at noon and 4:30pm), but I’d at least be 90% better off if I simply refused to check it until after I’ve written 500 words or for 30 minutes or whatever measure I want to use.

Your particular God calling might be best fulfilled by working on it for 30 minutes every morning.

What is the one thing you should do every day before you check email?

What is the greatest interference other than email for the one thing you should do every day?

What do you need to do to commit yourself to this one thing every day?

How does God feel about your early morning choices?


Failure Is Not Trying

You should immediately add this question to your year-end review:

When did you utterly fail this past year?

And the one being reviewed should be penalized if they have no answer. If you aren’t trying, you’re dying.

I was coaching a man who’s actions were paralyzed. As we coached through it, the obstacle was the fear of disappointing people he respected. So in order to not disappoint anyone with a failed attempt, he didn’t do anything.

He needed a new perspective. How would these people you respect respond if they knew you were taking no action because of them? Answer: They would be disappointed. Ouch.

You don’t want to be reckless. You don’t want to work without a net. And if you have a good coach, you can create a plan to move forward that is well thought out and that will give you confidence to move ahead.

But if there is no risk of failure, it probably isn’t worth doing.


Why Alyssa Got a Tattoo

Ecuador TattooOur daughter said, “I want to get a tattoo.”

I said, “No you don’t.”

My wife said, “You really don’t.”

She was late in her sixteenth year, and while it may seem a no brainer to most that she simply could not get a tattoo, it was not so simple at all. She was living in Ecuador and had been living there for almost a year.

The issue did not go away. She decided for her eighteenth birthday, she would get a tattoo. You may not like my advice, and I can live with that, but here’s what I told her. “Don’t get a dolphin or a leprechaun. Get something that will have meaning to you for the rest of your life.”

Alyssa drew up a potential tattoo. It was an outline of Ecuador, with the country’s name written out in script. (No one would identify the country by its shape). It had a heart where she lived for the year, and then to totally make it “Alyssa,” she put the elemental symbol for potassium on top of it and wrote everything in purple.

Why? Because bananas are Ecuador’s chief export, bananas are rich in potassium, and the symbol for potassium is K. Alyssa is a nerd. Not convinced she’s a nerd? The tattoo is in purple because when you burn potassium, it burns a purple flame. Go ahead, burn a banana.

This experience was life-changing for Alyssa and something that will forever be foundational to who she is. We still talk about the three families she lived with, the adventures with the other exchange students visiting Galapagos or navigating the Amazon, becoming fluent in Spanish, and even the time she got lost walking all over town. Yikes!

Alyssa did not get a tattoo of Jesus. She’s a great kid and is working out her faith, and I’m comfortable with that, but she did not say, “Jesus has impacted my life in such a foundational way, I want to tattoo his face on my shoulder.”

Here is my simple coaching question: When you are designing a ministry, whether it is a small group or a mission trip or a worship service, how can that experience become so foundational to those who participate that they want a picture of Jesus tattooed on their shoulder?

Don’t get hung up on the tattoo here. What experience have you had with Jesus that impacted your life in such a significant manner? How can you give someone else that same opportunity?


The Key to Success That Everyone Misses

SnailA couple of years ago, I started Grassroots Church Planting. A few weeks ago, I decided not to renew the website domain name. We actually planted a great church through Grassroots. We had a few mini-conferences that people enjoyed and asked us to continue. The problem was very simple. I wasn’t motivated. I didn’t pick up the phone and make the calls I needed to make. I didn’t drive any distance to talk about why Church Planting is important.

I believed church planting was important, but I had no urgency for it in my heart.

It is the same reason we don’t see a lot of salvations at our church. I believe it is important, but I don’t have an urgency about it. I have more urgency about discipleship. (You are either judging me right now, or you feel exactly the same.)

There is a difference between important and urgent.

You can create some short term urgency in people, but long term urgency comes from deep within the person.

Recently, I started a coaching business called Coaching Clarity. I have traveled all over the United States to talk about coaching. I have called people I don’t know to try and convince them about the importance of coaching. Not only do I believe in coaching, but I have an urgency about coaching. Developing people is a deep core value for me.

  • Not everyone thinks helping the poor is urgent.
  • Not everyone thinks helping the schools is urgent.
  • Not everyone thinks visiting imprisoned drug addicts is urgent.
  • Not everyone thinks leading people to a relationship in Christ is urgent.

But these are all important.

You can go one of two ways with this. You can either shame yourself into an urgency of whatever seems to be the most important, or you can find what urgency God has stirred in your heart. You won’t have any problem being successful at what you find urgent.


Who Do I Talk To About Quitting?

QuitterWhen I was 10 or 11 years old, I went out for Little League Football. I’m sure my older brothers played football, but they were much older and weren’t playing when my turn came. My dad was never over involved in my sports so that left mom to prepare me for football.

It was my introduction to the jock strap. I remember asking mom which way it went. Something was going to be hanging out either way. Awkward. Especially having to figure this out with your mom. Then we figured out the shoulder pads. Nobody told me I should wear a T-shirt underneath the pads so that they wouldn’t rub me raw. Mom didn’t know that.

At that first (and last) practice, the only thing I remember is lining up and hitting each other. Since I was the biggest fifth grader, they lined me up against the biggest sixth grader, Byron. Byron was big. Byron had a wicked smile on his face as he lined up against me. Hike! Boom! I have no idea whether I was on offense or defense. It didn’t matter. Byron ran over me either way.

When I got home, my underarms were raw from the shoulder pad straps rubbing me raw. My body was sore from Byron rolling over me several times. I didn’t want to go back the next day for anything. I told my mom I wanted to quit. She said I had to talk to dad. Weird that I didn’t have to talk dad about the jock strap, but I had to talk to dad about quitting.

Dad was changing the oil in the combine (we were farmers) or something equally ambitious. I found him and said, “I want to quit football. Mom said I had to ask you.” He stopped what he was doing and told me this:

“You can quit football, but don’t ever quit anything else ever again.”

Dad told me to never quit. A few weeks ago, I was reading Matthew 19. Jesus gives a successful young man the exact opposite advice.

“If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

Jesus is very specific in what the man is supposed to quit and very vague about what he is to do. Jesus also doesn’t appear to build any steps into the transition. The successful man could hear his dad’s words in his head, “Don’t ever quit anything else ever again.” He wasn’t a quitter.

Why is it so hard to know when and what to quit?

Jesus doesn’t call the man to quit because it’s too hard. Jesus calls the man to quit because it’s too easy.

Peter soon asks Jesus,

“We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?”

Peter had quit his job. Now life was hard. He had no idea what to expect day to day. Jesus encouraged Peter to persevere. “It will all be worth it, and sooner than you think.” Don’t quit.

Coaching is a powerful tool to help people think through when and how they should quit. What are some powerful questions that you would ask someone who is considering whether they should quit or not?


God Wants You to Have Everything


How would it change your approach to ministry if the following were true?

God wants you to have everything

AND He wants you to be able to handle it.

The story of the Prodigal Son is my proof. The rebellious son, in rare form, looks at his dad and declares, “If only you were dead, I could have all that belongs to me and live the best life.” His dad, in one of the most shocking actions the Bible provides, gives him everything. He holds nothing back. As we expect, the boy can’t handle it. He returns to his father, hoping to be given the opportunity to be a hired hand. When his father sees him returning, he does the unthinkable. He gives the boy everything… again.

The Father is INSISTENT that his child has everything, and he wants his son to be able to handle it.

“Having” isn’t really the problem. “Handling it” is the tricky part. Jesus went to the cross to help us “handle it.”

What does this have to do with coaching?

First, it changes my mindset as I work with people. If I believe it is true that “God wants people to have everything,” then I need to help them discover what EVERYTHING looks like for them. Their thinking will need stretched. Coaches are great at this.

Second, learning to “handle it” can be improved with coaching. Coaches help people see next steps, which builds confidence and overcomes fear. Coaching builds in accountability so that abuse is less likely.

It is an absolute treat to be a Christian coach. We don’t have to help people “make their way in the world.” God has already done that. We just need to help people discover their way and help them along that road.

This makes coaching a great way to evangelize in that you are helping people discover their relationship with God.

Coaching is a great way to disciple because you are helping people discover God’s desires for their life and helping them plan next steps to move toward that life.

As it is Easter time, we honor the sacrifice Jesus made for us to set us free.

 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. – John 10:10


Advice to Graduates – Punch Fear in the Face


Advice for Graduates – Be Bold!

The number one piece of advice we give our children is “Be careful.”  This is terrible advice!  Is this Christian advice?  Be careful Moses.  Be careful David.  Be careful Jesus… said no one ever.

Our Graduating Senior daughter has taught me a lot about boldness.  Two years ago, she took a year off of high school and lived in Ecuador for a full twelve months on a Rotary Foreign Exchange!  Bold move.  She now speaks fluent Spanish and has visited the Amazon rain forest and the Galapagos Islands.  She has great friendships all over North America, South America, and Europe.  Wow!  More than that, she learned who she is and how to be who she wants to be.

Here is my advice for her future – don’t let Foreign Exchange be the boldest thing you ever do.  Knock our socks off!

Here are a few words of advice for her future based on the lessons of King David.

  • Figure Out What You Love to Do and Do It – No one will find you your place.  No one will recognize your greatness and beg you to take your place among the greats.  King David’s dad was told one of his sons would be king.  He didn’t know which son, but he knew it wouldn’t be David.  It was David.  Don’t let anyone’s lack of belief in you stop you from pursuing who God created you to be.
  • It Takes Ten Years to “Take Off” – We all want to be “overnight successes.”  But no one ever is.  After David is anointed king, he wisely goes back to being a shepherd for several years.  It was Cinderella who went straight to the castle.  You aren’t Cinderella.  You are David.  The lottery isn’t your ticket.  Work hard every day on your dream.  Flight will occur when you have enough momentum.
  • You Will Face a Giant – One day you will face a giant that stands between you and your dream.  Everyone (maybe even me) will tell you not to take that fight.  It could cost you your life.  Don’t listen.  When the giant appears, pick up five smooth stones that you learned to shoot over that ten-year “Take Off.”  Kill that giant and move ahead with your dreams.
  • You Need Others Around You – Most kids hate working in groups in school.  But the best and most productive work in the real world is group work.  The secret to group work is leadership.  If you can lead a group, you can do anything.  Study leadership.  Who are the key people you need around you?  More importantly, who do you need out of your life to be successful?
  •  When You “Take Off,” People Will Hate You – Others in your class will take off before you.  Don’t hate them.  Don’t use your Christian powers of Prayer to pray that they crash.  Encourage them.  Congratulate them.  Watch them and learn.  Your chance to be hated will come soon enough.  Become a group of friends who celebrate each other’s success.  Your time will come soon, and you want them to celebrate with you.
  • You Will Have an Epic Fail – I’m not hoping you fail.  I don’t want you to fail.  But I also don’t want you to be so careful you don’t fail.  By being bold, you will most definitely crash in one way or another.  The Haters will gloat over you.  And there will be consequences.  Take responsibility for the consequences.  Don’t criticize God for what you caused.  You will think your life is over.  It won’t be.  This is where you will learn the most valuable lessons of your life.  Failure is not permanent.  Failure is a stop on every successful person’s journey.  Learn your lesson and continue.

I am asking God to bless each graduate that they may find their unique place in this HUGE, DIVERSE world and boldly take their place becoming a blessing to their family and their community.  Be Bold Class of 2013!

Note: “Punch Fear in the Face” is the subtitle of Jon Acuff’s new book “Start!”  I’m giving a copy to all of our graduating seniors.


A Sense of Urgency

A firefighter has a clear Sense of Urgency.  The Urgency is to put out the fire.  They train for it every day.  They dress for it every day.  They even sleep prepared for it every night.  Each fire may require a different strategy.  It may require a different team.  (Some fires require paramedics.  Others may require a demolition team.)  But the Urgency is always the same.  Put wet stuff on the hot stuff!

Firefighter Looking Into a Fire

Imagine if we could live each day with the same clarity of Urgency. 


According to John Kotter, author of Leading Change, seventy percent of all change fails.  Ten percent of all change succeeds beyond expectations.  His research shows the key to successful change is a powerful Sense of Urgency.  Kotter even wrote a book called A Sense of Urgency, and I would highly recommend both books.

Coaching can help you find that Sense of Urgency for your organization or for yourself.

Many leaders like to start with a program or a strategy.  The strategy is supposed to bring change.  But with a seventy percent failure rate, you’ve probably experienced this failure at some point in your life.

A coach’s job is to help you move from where you are to where you want to go. 

Sometimes the coach needs to help you see more clearly where it is you want to go.  But once the journey is started, there will be many obstacles.  Fears will rise up and stop you in your tracks.  You may become complacent and decide you’ve traveled far enough.

Without that constant Sense of Urgency, you will probably fail.  A good coach can help you discern that Urgency.

  • Urgency should never be making money or becoming famous or even packing out a church.
  • Urgency should always be something that helps people.
  • Urgency should be something that makes others move without a lot of explanation.  Think “Fire!”
  • Urgency should keep people moving even when the road gets difficult.
  • Urgency should create a strong feeling inside of people, such as the way a father feels about protecting a daughter.
  • Urgency should sometimes produce tears, especially as it nears successful      change.

I’m in a change process right now.  And when I’m not careful with my thoughts, I feel like I’m way up in the air walking a tightrope in a high wind with no net below.  I have to stop and remember, why we entered into this change in the first place.  Why is it urgent that I stay this course even when there are safer options available?

  • For me, it is urgent that I am fulfilling a God-given purpose.
  • It is urgent that I take care of my family.
  • It is urgent that I help people develop and move forward.

Constantly communicating a Sense of Urgency is a leader’s most important role.

A Sense of Urgency defines what needs to change.  It doesn’t give any strategies for the change.  It doesn’t measure any goals.  The Sense of Urgency is a passionate feeling that drives us toward the needed change.

Take a few minutes and write out three or four sentences that describe your sense of urgency.  Share them in the comments.