Is Greatness Worth It?

From my latest article at

Greatness comes at a price. In his book Outliers: Stories of Success, Malcolm Gladwell posed the idea that it costs 10,000 hours of practice to be truly great at something. He mentions Bill Gates and Steve Jobs as examples, as well as Michael Jordan. Others who fall into that same category are stars, past and present, like Ted Williams, Wayne Gretzky, Peyton Manning, and Tiger Woods. Every sport has athletes known for their obsessive work habits and dedication to mastering their craft, and the same is true of most prolific authors, actors, movie directors, musicians, designers, and even pastors.

But what did it really cost? Every hour given to practice is an hour debited elsewhere. Family, relationships, personal spiritual life, mental and physical health, rest, and service to the church or community all pay taxes to “greatness.”

Think of your own life and the things in which you would like to excel: work, a creative endeavor, fitness. To do them it is necessary to not do something else, and often that something else truly matters, eternally matters. Faith, family, church, and community are all parts of life we often do not think of “mastering” but are foundational in a fulfilled Christian life. Yet these are the things we set aside to become great in some other area. Is it worth the cost?

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Read the full post HERE.

photo credit: tinto via photopin cc

Why Micromanaging is Ungodly


Nobody likes a micromanager, except maybe the one doing the managing. Even people who need close oversight hate it. Why? It?s annoying. It?s overbearing. We generally chalk it up to a ?poor leadership style? or ?ineffective management.? It?s more than that, though. Micromanagement among Christian leaders reflects poorly on our faith and the gospel. It doesn?t work, and that?s mainly because it?s not the way God designed things to work.

Here are five reasons why.

1) Micromanagement is a failure to lead.

In fact, it is not just a failure to lead; it is the opposite of leadership. Leaders, whether in business or ministry or any other context should be empowerers of others, setting them up to succeed. Micromanagement bears all the burden and actually undermines those it oversees. It takes away their opportunities to shine and never shows them a way forward. Instead of raising up new talent and new leaders it suppresses both and limits everyone?s effectiveness.

2) Micromanagement is a failure to self-evaluate.

To be fair, every shortcoming is a failure to self-evaluate. But for someone responsible for others? success, refusing to self-evaluate is a recipe for disaster. Micromanagers don?t realize they are actually making life harder for others. They don?t see the damage they are causing. They also don?t see the damage they are causing to themselves. By taking on all the burden of work instead of empowering others to do it well, a micromanager is stockpiling stress and burden. More than that, though, they aren?t evaluating their own gifts. The question every micromanager must ask themselves is this: should I really be in a position of leadership? If the inclination is to do all the work instead of helping others do it then maybe being in a position of leadership is the wrong fit.

3) Micromanagement is a failure to recognize the gifts of others.

God has uniquely gifted every person. Leaders are tasked with seeing those gifts, feeding them, and giving people room to use them to the fullest extent. Micromanagers either cannot or will not do this. They see people as tools to be wielded or foolish sheep to be shepherded. They cannot recognize that the people under them may be better at certain tasks and responsibilities and that this is a good thing! Those serving under a micromanager cannot reach the potential God has imbued them with until they are free to use their gifts. Micromanagers stand in their way.

4) Micromanagement is a failure to trust others.

A lack of trust fits hand-in-glove with failure to recognize people?s gifts. If you cannot be confident in another person?s ability to do the job well you cannot trust them. When a person cannot trust others, though, it isn?t just about their view of people. It is about their view of God. Micromanagement reflects a lack of grace, a lack of connection to God?s immense mercy and kindness. People think of grace in terms of forgiving sins and failures. For a leader forgiveness like that is a tough balance because doing so too much means allowing flaws in your business or ministry too often. Yes, forgiveness is good, but a line must be drawn somewhere. But grace is also about giving responsibility and space to those who are flawed and might fail. When a leader can?t give any leeway to try new things or take some risks it is a lack of grace. However, when leaders show that aspect of grace, people under them feel both safe and free to pursue great things. Grace allows bigger things to be accomplished where micromanagement crushes them.

5) Micromanagement is a failure to trust God.

If a leader professes to believe that God gifted people uniquely, in His image, and believes in the grace of God and has experienced it, then why would he set that aside in leadership? Does he know better than God? Is he a better leader than God? He put that leader in a position to make others? lives better, but by acting on his own, in his own wisdom, the micromanaging leader is harming them. He is harming himself by his lack of trust, too, by taking on burdens God didn?t intend for him to have. Leaders must remember who gave them their position, who gifted them to do it, and who gave the people around them their abilities. If God can do all that, He doesn?t need a leader to micromanage all the work too.

Only Trusting In God Can Keep Me From Freaking Out

Right now my life is crazy. Mostly in good, kids and church, sort of ways. But sometimes I go to bed feeling like the guy in the comic below. I’ve got so much to do and never enough time to do it. What can keep me from having a grand ol’ freak out session? Isaiah 26:3-4 helps me out…

You keep him in perfect peace?whose mind is stayed on you,?because he trusts in you.?Trust in the LORD forever,?for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock.?You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock.

The way to get perfect peace is NOT by carving out more hours in the day. It’s by fixing my mind on God, who is the only one who always gets his to-do list completed. God doesn’t want me to carry the burden myself. I’m supposed to cast it on him.

Does Your Job Really Matter?


You are one of 4,000 residents of Cubicleville USA, and you do the same thing every day. You enter your sensory deprivation chamber, turn on the computing device, and fire up your favorite spreadsheet. For eight hours you crank out numbers that are somehow related to something called ?gross market value? and ?the bottom line?. Some days are good. Some are so boring that you feel like jabbing a mechanical pencil into your eye.

Or maybe you?re on a construction crew and spend your days among nails, two-by-fours, and framing hammers. Or you?re a mom and the bulk of your day is spent cleaning slop and soggy Cheerios.

Does any of this really matter to God, or are you just piddling away your days until you get to heaven? Does God actually care about spreadsheets, nails, and Cheerios?

Actually, He does. Very much. Go back to the beginning.

Genesis 1:1 – God creates. Light splits the darkness, order emerges from the chaos, and it is good. We serve a energetic, creative, ordering God.

Genesis 1:26 – God makes man in his image. In the image of a creative, ordering God. Humanity is given a mandate: take dominion over the earth, cultivate it, make it a pleasant place to live. We are to imitate our creative, ordering God.

Herein lies the connection to spreadsheets, framing hammers, and soggy diapers. When we work, create, and order, we are imitating our God. God loves to see His creatures imitating him.

You?re not just crunching numbers, you are fulfilling the creation mandate, which pleases God very much. You?re not merely building a house, you?re actually imitating God. And much greater things are at stake then a spilled bowl of Cheerios. The glory of God is at stake.

Tomorrow is not just another day at the office. It?s an opportunity to glorify God by taking dominion over the earth.

So work hard. Take dominion. Glorify God.

+photo by karindalziel

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GTD for the Glory of God

By now you?ve probably heard of David Allen?s book Getting Things Done. In essence, the book promises to help you organize every facet of your life, from your retirement to your sock drawer.

The book has a strange effect on many people, myself included. Reading it sends me into a breathless euphoria, and visions of ?Next Actions? and ?Projects? skitter through my brain. I make lists as if I?m preparing for Armageddon. Each item checked off the list represents a small victory in the battle of life. Yes, some of those victories are small, such as ?Get Haircut?, but they?re victories nonetheless.

What is it about Getting Things Done that sends me, and millions of other people into a list-making frenzy? To be honest, I think it has everything to do with Genesis 1:1-2

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

God is creative and organizational. He formed the universe from nothing and He put it into order. What keeps the planets running the same course year after year? What prevents the sun from accidentally napalming the earth? Why does ice form at thirty-two degrees Fahrenheit? The God of order who sustains all things.

This God of order has stamped his image upon all of us. The impulse for organization that drives us to make lists and put away the dishes is a divine impulse. When we pursue order we reflect the image of God. We please God.

This truth has such practical implications! When you organize your house, you?re reflecting the image of God. When you dump data into a spreadsheet and then organize it in an understandable way, you?re reflecting the image of God. When you create furniture out of raw materials, you?re being an image-bearer.

And so I?ll keep fighting to bring order into the chaos of my life. For the glory of God. Because I bear his image.

Now if you?ll excuse me, I?ve got some lists to make.

Do you use an organizational system?

The Dangers of Productivity


Confession: I’m a productivity fiend. I love the whole idea of getting things done, banging through a checklist, and keeping on top of things. I love hearing people’s tricks and tips for becoming more productive. And I do believe that there’s a biblical precedent for being productive. Ephesians 5:15-16 says, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” Productivity can be wonderfully God-honoring, and I’m truly grateful to God for those who have helped me become more productive.

But my constant push for productivity has exposed sin in my heart as well. There are definite dangers in always seeking to be more productive. Here are a few I’ve seen in my own life. Can you relate?

The Danger of Legalism

Scripture is brilliantly clear that God will never accept me based on anything I do. My hope is forever and always in the finished work of Jesus Christ. The premise behind productivity however is doing more, and for me, much of the doing involves good things, like reading spiritual books or taking care of things around the house. The problem arises when my doing starts to bleed into my grasp of the gospel. At times I find myself feeling that God accepts me or loves me more because I’ve been productive. In the words of Sinclair Ferguson, I start to “smuggle” good works into the gospel. This is sinful legalism. I must always pursue productivity in light of the gospel.

The Danger of Doing Instead of Loving

It’s so easy to confuse doing things for God with simply loving God. This was the mistake that Martha made when she and her sister Mary had Jesus over for dinner. Martha was serving like a mad woman, running about frantically in an effort to put on a dinner extravaganza for Jesus, while Mary was just hanging out with Jesus. In an effort to get Mary moving, Martha pulled the “she’s not doing anything” trick on Jesus. But Jesus rebuffed her with these words:

Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.

I need to remember that only one thing is necessary: loving Christ. Doing things for God doesn’t equal loving God. Reading spiritual books, serving in the church, keeping a well-managed home – all these things are wonderful, but they don’t necessarily mean that my heart is full of affection toward God. I want God to fill my heart with deep affection for him which will in turn lead to acts of service toward God.

The Danger of Neglecting

In the constant effort to be more productive it’s easy to neglect the most important things, like my family. When I’m sitting on the living room floor having a ‘jam session’ with Charis and her toy piano, I’m not necessarily being ‘productive’, but that’s the most important place for me to be. By God’s grace, I want to make time to ‘do nothing’ with my family. Time for memories, and ice cream, and trips to the park. I don’t want the push for productivity to take me away from what’s truly important.

What about you? Do you ever find yourself falling into the traps of productivity?

+photo by orangeacid

Doing Vs. Loving

I’m a doer not a lover. Yeah I know, it sounds like a cheesy lyric from a love song written in the 1970’s, the kind of song that shows up on Time Life Compilation CD’s. But unfortunately this statement is often true of my own life.

As I’ve continued reading Getting Things Done, I’ve realized that I often focus more on what I’m doing for God instead of how deeply I love God. If you’re a Christian, you probably have a list of ways that you serve the Lord. Overseeing insane three-years olds in your church children’s ministry, leading a small group, maintaining a website, blogging, visiting the elderly, you know the things I’m talking about. But God isn’t primarily concerned with how much stuff we’re doing in His name. He’s much more concerned about the intensity of our love for Him.

The story of Mary and Martha is a wonderful example of this truth. Martha was serving like a mad-woman, scurrying about the house in an effort to put on the perfect meal for Jesus. Mary on the other hand was hanging out at Jesus’ feet, delighting in every word that came from His lips. When Martha complained to Jesus about Mary’s apparent lack of service, Jesus actually rebuffed her. He reminded her that loving the Lord is infinitely more important than doing things for the Lord.

Are you a Mary or a Martha? Do you take greater delight in spending time with the Lord or doing things for the Lord. I want to be like Mary.

Our Very Happy God

Have you ever felt the satisfaction of accomplishing something, of having your plans succeed? It’s a really good feeling. Or, have you felt the burning frustration that comes with having your plans thwarted? Nothing is more maddening than seeing a well laid plan shot to pieces.

As I’ve read the book Getting Things Done, I’ve been reminded of why our God is so happy: He accomplishes all that he pleases. Psalm 135:6 says, ” Whatever the LORD pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps.” God does whatever he desires! He gets all things done and nothing can stand in his way. When He wants something, He gets it. This is why he is so happy.

John Piper puts it this way: “What these two verses (Psalm 135:6; 115:3) teach is that everything God takes pleasure in doing, he does and cannot be hindered from doing. Or to put it somewhat differently, all that he does he takes pleasure in. He cannot be kept back from doing what he delights most to do.” – The Pleasures of God

This is really good news for us. As Christians, we are brought into the exceeding happiness of God. He joy overflows to us, and through Christ we are filled to overflowing. Isn’t this truth wonderful? As you go about your day, seeking to “get things done”, remember our very happy God and ask Him to fill you with joy.

The God Who Gets Things Done

I’m going on vacation this week and plan on reading the book Getting Things Done, by David R. Allen. This productivity oriented book has generated an almost cult-like following of people who walk around with lists in their pockets and categorize every to-do into a “Next Action”, “Project”, “Someday”, “Waiting For”, “If I Don’t Max Out My Credit Card First”, or “If My Wife Lets Me”. I’ve read this book before, and as I read it I find myself caught between two healthy tensions:

1) Wanting to be more productive for the sake of Christ. Colossians 4:5 calls us to, “Conduct yourselves wisely toward outsiders, making the best use of the time.” I want to spend my energies for the glory of Christ, not wasting my life on fruitless pursuits. In light of this, I desire to be more productive and “Get Things Done” for the glory of God.

2) Realizing that only God accomplishes all that’s on his to-do list. In scripture we see that only God gets everything done. God is the only perfectly productive being in the universe. He never grows tired, never has a brain meltdown, never needs a thirty-minute power nap. As I seek to get things done, I want to acknowledge my absolute dependence on God for grace. And ultimately, Jesus Christ is the only man who ever got everything done. He’s the Savior, the perfect man, the One who obeyed God even to death. Oh how I need the Savior.

If you’ve ever thought about trying to be more productive, let these two tensions inspire you to call out to God. You need his grace to live a life that makes the most of every moment, and you need his grace to get things done. Above all, you need the Savior.