Sunday, September 17, 2017

Passing the Baton

It’s really hard to believe that it’s been a year since our church transitioned leadership from Pastor Mark, who had served as lead pastor for 26 years, to Pastor Mitchel, who had been serving at Grace for 4 years.  The image that was often used to describe the transition was the passing of a baton.  I can’t imagine any better way to describe what the past year has been like.  The reality is, every one of us in ministry is in a relay race.  At some point we will all pass the ministry baton we’re running with to someone else.  Whether we serve somewhere for 2 years, 12 years, or 26 years, every one of us in ministry is running a relay.  If you think of it in terms of track and field, a relay race is an event in which athletes run a pre-set distance carrying a baton before passing it onto the next runner.  At some point in our ministry race we will hand the baton off to the next person.  If we do not remember this, we’ll run a relay race like an individual race.  All sorts of problems will arise if that happens:  We’ll hold on to the baton when we should let go of it … we’ll focus on our own race instead of trying to set the next person up for success … we’ll make ourselves the point of the race instead of remembering that this is a team effort … we’ll just drop the baton when we’re finished running … we’ll forget that someone else actually handed us the baton that we are holding now.  

Our role in ministry (volunteer or vocational) is never an individual race.  It is always a relay and we only have a “pre-set distance” to run before passing off the baton God has placed in our hands.  The sooner we realize this, the more successful we will be when it’s our time to pass the baton.  Here are a few things I’ve observed and processed over the past year since the baton was passed at Grace and a few things I’ve experienced in my own baton passing.

1.    The baton pass is important.  In any relay race, it’s imperative for a good hand off to take place.  If there is a mistake while passing the baton, the team is hindered or disqualified.  In ministry, if the baton pass goes bad, the “team” may not be disqualified, but it is certainly hindered.  For that reason, great care and prayer needs to go in to the process of handing off the baton:  When will this happen?  Who will make the final decision?  Will this be an internal or external hire?  What needs to be a part of the timeline?  The best relay teams practice passing the baton over and over.  For a successful baton pass in ministry to take place, doing the hard work up front and having a strategic plan in place may not make things easy, but it will certainly make them easier.

2.    The baton pass is important but the hard work is running the race itself.  The one passing the baton knows this.  The one receiving the baton will find it out, if they do not know it already.  In a relay, the runner doesn’t get fatigued passing the baton.  The fatigue begins to set in as they take step after step after step in the race. 

3.    Run at your own pace.  Each runner in a relay runs a pre-set distance.  The difference in ministry is that we do not know exactly what that distance will be.  But, whatever the distance, we must run it at a sustainable pace.  In an actual race, if I’m trying to run with people who are just way faster than me, I’ll burn out too quickly and not run to my potential.  If I’m running with the people who are slower than me, I’ll never allow myself to be stretched and pushed physically, and I’ll not run to my potential.  God strategically places us somewhere in order to fulfill His purposes (Acts 13:36, 17:26). All we can do is run our race to the best of our ability and trust Him for the results. We are simply called to run the race and to make the most of the abilities God has given us.

4.    A runner never runs a perfect race because there are no perfect runners.  When the baton is passed, every condition of the organization (the good and the bad) is passed on with it.  The hope is that more good than bad is passed on, but since no runner is perfect this side of heaven, we can expect to receive both.  To expect any different would be denying the reality of the human condition.

5.    People are watching.  Some of them are cheering for you and are more than happy to encourage you along the way.  Some of them do not like how you’re running the race and seem eager to criticize the way you do so.  The weight of all those eyes can feel very heavy unless we remember that the most important set of eyes watching are always for us … “The eyes of the LORD search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.” (2 Chronicles 16:9)  We must remember who we are in His eyes and find our strength in the presence, the power, and the promises of God.

6.    Stay in your lane.  The lane marks clear boundaries for a runner.  If a runner steps out of his/her lane, the team is disqualified.  A good organization will have a vision, values, and mission based upon God’s word.  We need to stay within those boundaries to keep us focused in any transition and to help us move forward in the most effective way.

7.    Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus.  “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:1 – 3) 

Passing the baton in ministry is difficult work and full of surprises and no matter how much you prepare for it, there will always be some unexpected twists and turns organizationally but also personally.  There are always matters of the heart that God brings to the surface that maybe we didn’t realize were there before we passed the baton or received it.  All of that, though, is an act of grace by God who brings all of it to our attention so He can continue His work of transforming us into the image of Jesus. 

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Reflections on Charlottesville

It’s been a few days since the tragic atrocities in Charlottesville.  I’ve been pondering these events and just wanted to share a few thoughts.  I’m not sure they’ll be in any particular order.  I’m just typing them as they come.

  •      For any one person or group of people to place their race, origin, color, nationality, or status above another’s is completely out of line with the character of Christ.  This is something that even the Apostle Peter needed to have his eyes opened too:  “I see now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism.”  (Acts 10:34)
  •      Lament the fight before fighting the fight.  Most of us are better at being angry than we are at being sad. In fact, many of us are so unwilling to face sadness that we will often use anger to mask it:  “I’m not sure I know how to be sad, but I sure know how to be angry.  Let’s do this!”  We’re far too willing to be angry over sin in our world but less willing to lament over it.  As followers of Jesus, we must lament the sin in our world.  We must cry over the injustice and the hurt and the pain. In our hearts we hunger for the perfect peace of heaven but we are force-fed a daily diet of this war zone called earth.  We must ask the question that David asked in Psalm 35:17 “How long, oh Lord?”  Romans 8:21 reminds us that all  “creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay.”    Cry out with the rest of creation at the pain and the brokenness and the impact of sin all around us.  “Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus.”  (Revelation 22:20)
  •      We need to feel sad before we feel angry, but that doesn’t mean we cannot feel angry.  I believe we can use anger as a motivation for good.  While it’s not wise to waste your energy getting all upset about the everyday little frustrations of life, it is wise to be angry over the stuff that really matters.  If you hear a racial slur, if you see a man or woman being devalued if things like that stir up anger inside of you, I say let it stir.  If those types of things burden you, then you need to feel the weight of that burden because when a burden for something different becomes greater than our willingness to live with the status quo, that’s usually when we take action. 
  •       In Nehemiah chapter 2 we read that Nehemiah is burdened to rebuild the protective wall around Jerusalem.  As he examines the wall, he finds that it is in worse shape than he ever imagined!  And, not only is the wall in bad shape, but people are coming to him and saying, “If you start to rebuild this wall, there is going to be trouble.  We are going to come after you ... we are going to hurt you!”  But, none of this scares him away.  There’s actually a time later in the book of Nehemiah when he says, “Should a man like me run away I will not go!”  (Nehemiah 6:11) Fear typically stands between us doing and not doing.  The best of us will be rendered useless if fear has its way.  Courage requires that we not run away but rather run toward the problems.  And, the truth of the Gospel empowers us to do so.
  •     Even if you do not know what to do, at least acknowledging what has happened can feel supportive to someone.  I’m obviously white.  I don’t think my friends of color are expecting me to have all the answers, but I think they can rightly expect me to at least acknowledge that when something like Charlottesville happens, something is drastically wrong. 
  •      The Gospel gives us a clear calling to move toward the hated and the haters.  Jesus said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you He causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good.”  (Matthew 5:44-45).  The Apostle Peter tells us to “Respect everyone.”  (1 Peter 2:17) The Apostle Paul reminds us that “God demonstrated His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  (Romans 5:8)

These are just some random, late night reflections.  I certainly do not have all the answers, but I do want to help be part of the solution.  That starts in my heart … allowing it to be broken … allowing God to help me see what He sees … trusting that He will enable me to stand beside those being mistreated and empower us all to take steps together toward healing.  

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Would you give up a possible $2 million dollars?

This past weekend I spoke on the importance of investing our time in to our most important relationships.  If you're interested, you can watch the video right here.  
After I spoke, someone from our church sent me this article which I thought was such a great encouragement about focusing on our most important relationships.  It's well worth taking 3 minutes to read it.
One Dad's $2 Million Sacrifice for His Daughter
Would you give up a potential $2 million payday to see your daughter graduate from high school?
Professional golfer Phil Mickelson is doing just that.
Because the opening round of the U.S. Open falls on the same day as his oldest daughter’s high school graduation, Phil has announced plans to withdraw from this year’s event.
It’s not the first time Mickelson has chosen family over work.
Back in 1999, Mickelson was competing at the U.S. Open in North Carolina just as his wife, Amy, stayed in their home back in Arizona. She was pregnant at the time – and the baby was due any day.
Mickelson went ahead and competed – but his caddie had a beeper in his pocket. And if Amy alerted him she had gone into labor, Phil would leave North Carolina and head home, even if he was leading the tournament.
Turns out Mickelson didn’t have to leave the U.S. Open that year, because his daughter, Amanda – the same daughter who is graduating this month, was born the day after the U.S Open finished.
Mickelson’s act of devoted love might even be at the expense of his lifelong dream. That’s because the U.S. Open is the only major tournament that the father of three hasn’t won. He’s come in second place six times.
“Phil desperately, desperately wants to win the U.S. Open,” said his wife, Amy, during an interview.
Yet the window of opportunity for Mickelson to win a career Grand Slam is closing. Mickelson is getting older – he’ll be turning 47 on the day of his daughter’s graduation – and the oldest golfer to have won the U.S. Open was 45.
But while Mickelson is convinced he would have a good shot at winning this year’s Open, he’s keeping his family his top priority.
“It really wasn’t much of a decision,” Mickelson explained. “As you look back on life, there are certain things you need to be there for.”
There’s little doubt Amanda is a healthier, better adjusted person for her father’s sense of commitment and sacrifice.
I’ve long talked about the importance of fathers on this blog, on the Focus on the Family Daily Broadcast, and in my book, “The Good Dad.”
Research continues to bear out this truth.
Just this week the Wall St. Journal reported on a study that used an ingenious research design to help prove that insufficient fathering predisposes girls to risky sexual behavior, defined as promiscuity, unprotected sex and sex while intoxicated.
The findings were definitive, explains Dr. Danielle DelPriore, one of the researchers.
“The prolonged presence of a warm and engaged father can buffer girls against early, high-risk sex,” she said. “It’s all about dosage of exposure to dads; the bigger the dose, the more fathering matters—for better and for worse.”
It’s just one way involved fathers can make a very real, very positive difference in their children’s lives.
I’ll be rooting for Phil Mickelson as he continues to compete in future tournaments and hope he gets his U.S. Open championship next year at Shinnecock Hills on Long Island.
But if you ask me, he’s already won the best prize.
by Jim Daly

Monday, May 15, 2017

Childlike

To be “childlike” means to be marked by innocence, trust, and naivety.  I saw this expressed in my 6-year-old on Saturday.  

I ran a 5K that morning.  As I was getting ready for the race, my 6-year-old daughter was convinced that I was going to win.  I was not.  Last year’s winner of this 5K finished somewhere in the area of 17 minutes.  Let’s just say that’s a bit faster than my pace.  So, I knew that it would literally take a miracle for me to win.  My daughter thought I would win simply because I was “daddy.”  Her belief in me was marked by innocence, trust, and naivety.  She was just naïve enough to believe I could do it.  In other words she was expressing a childlike belief in me … her dad.

Is there a situation in your life right now where you need to be childlike with God?  Where do you need to be “marked by innocence and trust” and where do you need to be just naïve enough to believe that God really can make a difference? 

Francis Chan wrote:  “While it is true that we are humans like everyone else, it is also true that we are humans with the Spirit of God dwelling in us.  Yet, whether consciously or not, we essentially say to God, ‘I know You raised Christ from the dead; but the fact is my problems are just too much for You and I need to deal with them by myself.’” 

In this world, my heart is always going to drift toward self-reliance.  That’s “adult-like” … rational, logical, and pragmatic.   Of course we need to be all of those things at times, but not when it comes to faith.  A childlike faith sounds so much more exciting.  Childlike means I have a greater trust in God than I do in myself.  Childlike means that I have a greater belief in God than I do in myself.  Childlike means that it’s more about God than it is about myself.  Childlike means that I believe my heavenly “Daddy” can do absolutely anything … not only because He’s my Daddy, but also because He’s proven Himself more than capable of doing anything.  Childlike means that there’s nothing so big that He can’t do it and nothing so small that He won’t do it.


Lord, grow me up by helping me become more childlike.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Ad-ven-cher

The word “adventure” can be defined as “a bold, usually risky undertaking; hazardous action of uncertain outcome.”  Well, today my wife left for an adventure. Over the next 5 days, she will be in AZ doing a rim-to-rim hike of the Grand Canyon with 4 other ladies from our church.  I have to admit, I’m pretty jealous, but could not be more excited for her and for my two young daughters … not because they’re going.  But, rather because they get to see their mom go.

When my wife (their mom) steps out on an adventure like this, it shows our girls that women are strong.  It shows our girls that adventure is not just for men.  It shows our girls that they can do hard things because they were meant to do hard things.  It shows our girls that their mom is brave and full of life.  It shows our girls that goals can be set and goals can be met and that they can take complete ownership of those things. 

Carol has trained for this.  She has walked up and down stairs with a backpack full of gallons of water.  She has prepared her body, her soul, and her mind.  My girls have watched all of this happen.  They have seen that we’re not entitled to anything and there are some things that we really have to work hard to achieve … and that is a good thing.

Carol will be sleeping outside … on the ground … in a sleeping bag … under the stars.  Seriously, how tough is that!  I love that my girls were asking her questions about that and wondering if she will get cold and wondering if the ground will be hard and wondering if she’ll be getting dirty and asking if her body will be soar.  The answer to all of those questions is “yes” … and yet they are seeing their mom’s willingness to step toward hard things and experience the adventure of a lifetime. I’m so proud of my wife and so excited for my 8 and 6 year-old girls and I cannot wait to see a desire for adventure continue to take shape in their lives. 

Besides talking to my girls about how much Jesus loves them and how much we love them, I regularly say to them that “Yauger girls are pretty, smart, and strong.”  My prayer is that every day they will become more and more grounded in the gospel and that the truth of God’s love for them will inspire them to live new and brave adventures every day. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Power for Marriage

My wife and I followed the tradition of not seeing each other on the day of the wedding.  So, the moment I first saw Carol as she appeared at the end of the aisle, my breath was taken away.  She was absolutely beautiful and I could not believe that I would soon be married to this amazing woman.  As she started to walk down the aisle, I felt my eyes begin to fill with a watery, salty discharge tears, I think they’re called. As she eventually made her way down the aisle and to my side, those same tears started to roll down my cheek because it was becoming more and more clear to me that there were now a whole lot of women who were going to miss out.   Sorry ladies. 😊  Although I say that jokingly, the truth is the moment I said “yes” to Carol, I was, in essence, saying “no” to every other woman on the planet.

Anyone can fall in love.  Honestly, falling in love is the easy part.  About the only thing it takes to fall in love is a pulse.  Staying in love … that’s a different story.  Love is a choice.  It’s a 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week commitment that says I am going to choose to love you … even if you’re not being lovable … even if things change … even if I change … I am vowing myself to you and I choose to love you from this day forward. A “feeling” would never be strong enough to hold people together through all of the changes in life.  And, that is why marriage is described as a covenant. A covenant says that I’m not only choosing to love who you are today but, forsaking all others, I choose to love the person you are becoming.  A covenant keeps one eye on the present and one eye on the future by choosing to love today and choosing to love tomorrow even though none of us knows what tomorrow holds in store. And, this is important to remember for many reasons, but one of the most important reasons to remember this is simply because people change.  You will not be the same person 5 years from now and neither will your spouse.

I have been married to 8 different women in the last 14 years … and they’ve all been named Carol … Carol as a new bride, Carol as a mother of one child, two children, three children, four children, Carol as a working mom, Carol as a stay-at-home mom, and Carol after a move to Maryland.  And, guess what … she’ll continue to change.  We all do because God’s grace is all about change.  The grace of God accepts us where we are but always does so with the agenda to move us forward.

So the power of marriage is rooted deeply in the commitment to love today and to love tomorrow and by, forsaking all others, there is a willingness to do whatever it takes to help your spouse become who God is calling them to be.  Just as God commits Himself to you, so you commit yourself to your spouse.

If that makes marriage sound like hard work that’s because it is!  If we believe this to be true, we will see every easy opportunity and every hard opportunity to love as a way that God continues to reveal to us our need for Jesus and His grace at work in our life.

I believe that God wants us to be great husbands or great wives, but His greater purpose is to make us more like Jesus and, in so doing, we become the husband or wife He has created us to be. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Ten Ways to Help Your Kids Become Indifferent


·      Give them more screen time.  That extra video game time may feel like it’s helping you not to lose your mind, but it’s also keeping your kids from using theirs. Plus, if they’re not in front of a screen, you may actually have to talk to them and ask them about their day.

·      Don’t expect them to rise to the level of your expectations.  Kids were never meant to do hard things, so set the bar really low.  This will build their self-confidence while teaching them that everything in life will be easy.

·      Focus on the outcome rather than the effort. Judge winners by winning and losers by losing.  It’s the American way.  We definitely want to teach our kids to find value in their performance rather than their character.

·      Enforce the rules but do not reinforce the child.  Take every step possible to make sure your kids obey but never take a step toward their heart.  Lecture them, but never talk to them.  Discipline them, but never disciple them.  The good thing about demanding unquestioned obedience is that it typically leads to a lot of questions later in life. 

·      Be a child-centered parent instead of a God-centered parent.  It’s important to drive 150 miles so your kids can be involved in that competition, but it’s not important to drive 10 miles so they can be involved in a church activity especially on a school night.  We have to teach our children about what is important, you know.

·      Be more concerned about their self-improvement instead of their self-denial. This, after all, is what Christianity is all about self-help.  It’s really difficult to help yourself if you’re pre-occupied with denying yourself.  I mean, who has time to help themselves when they’re concerned with helping others?

·      Don’t ask questions about where they’re going and what they’re doing.  You do not want to appear to be too interested in what they’re doing.  This might come across as intrusive and like you actually care.  So, keep your distance and let them have their own way.  As long as you give them what they want, they won’t push back on you.

·      Be more concerned about their behavior than about their heart.  Again, this is probably what Christianity is about behavior modification.  Some say it’s about heart transformation, but it’s a whole lot easier just to tell people what to do and not to do instead of actually getting to the root of why they may be doing it. 

·      Avoid meals together around the table.  You certainly do not want to start your day together with breakfast and then come back together for dinner.  We don’t want our kids to become one of those statistics that says having meals together as a family increases emotional stability and decreases behavioral problems in children.   Who wants that kind of drama?


·      Work long hours and try to be away as much as possible.  No one has ever gotten to the end of their life and wished they had worked more hours.  But, if you keep at it, maybe you’ll be the first.  I’m sure that will feel much better than knowing you left work on time in order to have dinner with your family.

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