Category Archives: Personal growth

The Pressure of one’s Peers

We generally equate peer pressure with the teen years. But as my wife and I were discussing recently, peer pressure doesn’t go away, it just changes shape.

In elementary school, we were concerned about having a “cool” backpack or lunch box. In junior high, we wanted to be part of the in-crowd, the cool kids. In high school, we had to wear the right fashions, listen to the right music, and attend the right parties. As a high school senior, the pressure was on to be accepted into the right college or university and receive more scholarship funds than our rivals.

In our twenties, people asked when we were going to get married. We felt left out when our friends starting pairing up and heading to the altar. Then it was the pressure to buy a house, establish a career, and start a family. Since we attended seminary after college and waited to start a family until after I finished school, we were certainly behind the pace of our peers.

In our forties & fifties, we measured ourselves against other parents on the barometer of how well our children were doing in school, what extracurricular activities they were involved in, and whether they scored the winning goal or touchdown or made the honor roll.

Now that we are in our sixties, my wife and I feel pressure about retirement. We are being asked, “When will you retire? Where will you retire?” We start to ask ourselves, “Can we take an exotic, foreign vacation like our friends?” Then there is the pressure to have grandkids so we can tell our friends about what they are doing.

As a pastor, I feel the pressure of how the church down the street or across town is doing. Does Church A have more people than we do? Is Church B meeting their budget? Is Pastor C on the radio? Does Pastor D have a podcast? Is Pastor E a published author? I ask myself the uncomfortable question, “Am I as ‘successful’ as my peers? Do I measure up?”

It seems that I need to review and embrace the apostle Paul’s instruction in Galatians 1:10.

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.

Rather than succumb to the pressure of my peers, I need to focus my attention on pleasing the audience of One.

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Posted by on August 21, 2018 in Bible Study, Personal growth, Scripture


Semper Gumby – Vacation version

Years ago, we adopted the motto of “Semper Gumby” for our short-term ministry trips. It is the attitude of “Always Flexible” and refers to the mindset of holding your plans with an open palm and allowing God to rearrange your schedule as he deems necessary.

It is one thing to practice Semper Gumby on a ministry trip. It is quite another thing when you have to implement it in real life, and especially on vacation.

One year ago, Carol and I made reservations to spend five nights in a cabin in Yosemite National Park. We received an email this morning saying our reservations have been canceled. This was necessitated by the ongoing battle with the Ferguson Fire in northern California. The park was originally closed on July 25 and scheduled to reopen on July 29, then August 3. Now, they will reevaluate on August 5.

Semper Gumby! We now scramble to figure out plan “B.”

Philippians 4:11–13 – 11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

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Posted by on August 1, 2018 in Personal growth, Scripture


The challenge of self-evaluation

Maybe this is why I struggle to do a self-evaluation performance review. I never feel like I do enough. I always feel like there is more I could/should be doing. Being a driven, responsible, doer can be both a strength and a weakness; a blessing and a curse. That and spending several months on the disabled list last year certainly didn’t help.

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Posted by on July 24, 2018 in Personal growth


Tough decisions

Would that all my decisions were this easy.

My struggle is not between good and bad, safety or danger. My struggle is between good and gooder, good and great. My struggle is between what I could do and what I must do, between what I should allow others to do and what only I can do. Safety and danger, those are the easy decisions.

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Posted by on July 21, 2018 in Personal growth, Zits


The Numbers Game

Who is more successful—the multi-site, megachurch pastor with a podcast and twitter followers or the pastor who ministers to 75 or perhaps 200 people?

Which prophet was more successful—Noah, who preached for 120 years and had only 8 people in his congregation (himself, his wife, his three sons and their wives) or Jonah, who reluctantly led a city-wide revival in Nineveh and then pouted because God showed grace and spared judgment?

Would Isaiah or Jeremiah be considered successful today? They were given a job description to preach to people who would never respond. They were faithful but saw no fruit.

How do you measure success? By numbers? By faithfulness? Men & women use the former while God uses the latter.

1 Corinthians 4:1–2 – This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.

May I be found faithful.


Monday Therapy

From Spring to Fall, Monday morning typically finds me mowing my lawn. As good a job as I can do, it always grows back and requires weekly attention. But truth be told, I find it to be good therapy.

One of the challenges of pastoral ministry is that people are always in process. Spiritual growth is internal. You don’t see quick results. You sometimes wait years to see significant changes. You seldom see a finished product.

Mowing the lawn provides instant results. As I progress up and down the rows, I see quantifiable before and after evidence. When I apply weed & feed, the grass seems greener in two weeks and the dandelions don’t make an appearance. After a two-hour walk behind the lawn mower, I can take pride in a job well done.

As a pastor, I spend all week preparing a sermon. After delivering it, I receive a few “good sermon, Pastor,” comments, but I cannot tell if it sunk or not. In some cases, it may be weeks, months, or even years before a change is evident. The typical measures of pastoral success, attendance and giving, don’t really measure success. They simply tell me how many people were present and how much they gave. They don’t indicate whether or not growth is taking place.

Taking care of the lawn reminds me of the need for faithfulness. If I skip a week or two of mowing, the grass is taller and harder to mow. If I neglect applying the weed and feed, the grass turns brown and the weeds take over.

Pastoral ministry requires faithfulness as well. If I take shortcuts in sermon preparation or skip praying, the results will eventually show up in the lives of people. I need to be just as diligent and even more so, before people are much more valuable than a green lawn.

Another therapeutic benefit of mowing the lawn is that it gives me time to think. I evaluate my sermons. I think about needs of people. I make and revise plans. I dream about the future. I pray for people and ministries.

Time to fire up the mower and begin another therapy session.


Fearful and wonderful

Psalm 139:14 makes a significant statement about the wonder of our human bodies.

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.

As I continue to recover from a broken leg/hip, I can attest to the truth of this verse. I am amazed at how God designed our bodies to knit themselves back together after an injury or surgery. Medical science certainly plays a helpful hand, but how bones can regrow together and become stronger and how a wound can close itself up is a testament to a sovereign, creative God.

After six and a half months, I am now starting to fly solo. I’ve been using the cane outside and walking without it inside. This week, I left it at home and decided to go without. My muscles still complain and are sore, but they are getting stronger. I’ve been able to mow the lawn, which takes me just under two hours. I’m able to walk longer and farther. I still tend to limp a bit, but my gait is improving.

My recovery causes me to praise God for his creative genius and to give thanks for answered prayer. My soul knows the truth of what God has done!