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Tiny Greatness (Why You Shouldn’t Worry About the Small)

Tiny Greatness (Why You Shouldn’t Worry About the Small)

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We often make fun of people and things that are tiny.

That car is awfully tiny. Does it come with a clown?

 He’s very short, but at least he’s always looking up!

 She’s so tiny she’s the last to get rained on and the first to drown.

And the bad jokes roll on.

Whether it’s a person, a house, a church, or a diamond—size seems to matter to most.

In one of my favorite books, People of the Second Chance, the author, Mike Foster, uses a phrase that caught my attention, “tiny greatness.”

Foster writes, “There is a special category of human activities: tiny greatness. Holiness in the small, unsuspecting work of our hands. A massive flow of Jesus spilling out in barely noticed actions.”

The idea is that we must never underestimate the value of doing small, and often unnoticed, acts of kindness for others.

Apparently, Jesus valued the small as well.

He once pointed out a very small offering by a widow, and used her sacrifice as a model for all.

Jesus used a boy’s meager lunch to feed thousands.

He pointed out the tiniest of seeds, the mustard seed, and reminded people to watch and see what God will do in His Kingdom from small beginnings.

Then, of course, there were the times he used a small child as an example of true greatness.

Let’s own it; we have a nasty habit of judging the value or potential impact of something or someone based on size.

God, on the other hand, delights in using the small, the tiny, the insignificant, by human standards, to do great things.

From David, to Gideon, to a young teenage girl named Mary, God has revealed His desire to use the young and the weak.

From five smooth stones, to five barley loaves of bread and two small fish, God has demonstrated again and again what He can do with almost nothing.

All that is required of us is to surrender what we have and who we are into His hands.

Matter of fact, the only thing Jesus can’t use is a tiny heart.

“Do not despise these small beginnings,

for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin.”

Zechariah 4:10 (NLT)

 

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4 Responses to Tiny Greatness (Why You Shouldn’t Worry About the Small)

  1. How I love how God continually uses the seemingly small and insignificant things to get our attention in a big way. It always reminds me never to underestimate the power of the simplest gesture done in love and kindness.
    Blessings, Kurt!

  2. And an unfortunate antithesis to your great, positive examples; “Beware the leaven of the Pharisees”; “A little leaven leavens the whole lump”. As in, a small amount of negative influence or a “small” sin unconfessed can grow to have a large impact.

    In Christ,

    Chris

Not Everybody Likes You or Me (And It’s Okay)

Not Everybody Likes You or Me (And It’s Okay)

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The desire to be liked and approved of by others runs deep in most of us. Maybe all of us. We are wired for connection to other humans. We are made to be in meaningful relationships. And when we know or sense that someone in our sphere of influence doesn’t like us, it hurts.

From the time we start school as young children, we do whatever we can to gain the acceptance and approval of others.

  • If we’re nerdy, we play the smart card.

  • If we’re goofy, we play the fun card.

  • If we’re athletic, we play the jock card.

  • If we’re musical, we just play something, anything (even a trumpet) to fit in with others who are like us. Hoping beyond hope that others will embrace us as valuable.

As we enter our teen years, we might feign apathy and act as if we don’t care about being liked.

But we do care. A lot.

Over time, after a broken heart or two or twenty, and after rejection after rejection, we typically start to withdraw in an act of self-preservation. However, our retreat from people doesn’t stop our deep-seated need to be recognized and accepted.

Of course, there are some who seem to be liked by everyone, but even those chosen few wrestle with a latent fear of falling out of grace with their peers. These gods among us know how fickle fame can be, and they are painfully aware of the unpredictable nature of mere humans.

We all long for love.

We all want to be valued.

We all desire to be desired.

We all check the number of Facebook likes on our latest post.

For me, I am keenly aware that people are visiting our church every Sunday and that they evaluate me on a regular basis.

Every time I speak, people are appraising me and my abilities.

Is he funny? Is he practical? Is he inspiring? Is he biblical and sound? Is he too old or too young?

Do I like his style? Do I like the way he dresses? Do I relate to him? Do I understand him?

Those questions and many others are running through the hearts and minds of the new folks.

Of course, the old-timers are asking different questions.

Have I heard this talk before? Is that message going to help me grow? Why does he care so much about this topic? Why should I care? Does Kurt care about me?

Trust me; I know what’s going on. I’ve been at this a long time.

When I write, either a blog or a book, the tape playing in the background of my mind is often asking, Will this resonate with the reader?

Like you, I want to be liked. I want to be accepted. I want to be approved of rather than rejected.

But here are some realities I wish I would have learned decades ago:

  1. Everything you do is a bridge to some and a barrier to others. Some will be drawn to you, your style, and your personality. Others, not so much, and it’s okay.

  1. If you are always striving for the approval of people, you will find it difficult, maybe impossible, to be consistently faithful to God and His call. You simply won’t be esteemed by everyone, and attempting to be is an effort in futility. It’s okay that not everyone likes you. Really.

  1. Because you failed to meet expectations (reasonable or not), early fans sometimes become later critics, and that’s okay too. You’re never going to keep everybody happy all of the time.

So what can you do?

In the words of Brennan Manning, “Be who you is or you is who you ain’t!” Today, to the fullest extent possible, be who God created you to be. Be in Christ. Be real. Be true to yourself if you want to be true to others.

Of course we need to grow. Without a doubt, there are plenty of character issues that need to be addressed. I’m not suggesting that you or I just wallow in the wastelands of idiocy.

But if you are not comfortable in your own skin and accepting of who you are today, right now, then you’re destined to be a grumpy, bitter, and depressed soul.

For some, my current mental, physical, or spiritual condition may be intolerable, and they don’t like me.

It’s okay. It is what it is. I am what I am.

I’m no Jesus, and even He was despised and rejected. Why should you or I expect to be loved, accepted, or liked by everyone?

Bottom line: to live uncontrolled by the need to be liked by all is liberating and the path to abiding joy.

Live free today.

“Jesus did not fully trust them.

He knew what people are like.

He didn’t need anyone to tell him what people are like.

He already knew why people do what they do.”

John 2:24-25  (NIRV)

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16 Responses to Not Everybody Likes You or Me (And It’s Okay)

  1. Awesome message Kurt. I really appreciated this message. Going to get to my sons for them and their children to read. God Bless You, have an awesome day. I am in AZ for a couple of days.

  2. I grew up as a people-pleaser, and as time went on, I almost lost my soul in the process. Thank God for the rescue!
    No, we can never be liked by all, nor can we fit the bill for all. We must be ourselves, the selves God created us to be.
    Thanks for this inspiration, Kurt!
    Blessings!

  3. I like your blog. I believe I remember one of your sermons from years ago where you said that 10% of our acquaintances do not like us.

  4. I wouldn’t know anything about not liking you, because I do like you. You’re just so darn likable. I figure if there’s somebody out there that doesn’t like me (and I know there are one or two out there), then they are clearly in error and I forgive them their mistakes. 🙂

You’re Not Always a “Great” Leader (and It’s Okay)

You’re Not Always a “Great” Leader (and It’s Okay)

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We live in a time when the pressure to be a great leader is a clear mandate for everyone from pastors to business executives. Being average is unacceptable. Leadership books and conferences are everywhere. I have no fewer than thirty books about leadership in my personal library. If you Google “leadership,” you’ll find about 775,000,000 results.

Leadership is a big deal in today’s world.

Yes, leadership matters.

Of course, mediocrity is never a good thing.

Personal growth is always preferred over the status quo—especially if the status quo is pathetic.

Being better is always a worthy goal.

My concern, however, is the growing internal conflict I see in leaders who will, quite frankly, never be all that great.

On our best days, most of us are average.

A lot of us are one or three-talent people rather than five-talent worldwide rock stars (a loose reference to a parable by Jesus). In the story, the first guy got just one bag of gold because the boss knew what he was capable of handling. Evidently, the other guys received more because they could manage more.

The number of bags (i.e. talents) wasn’t the issue.

I’m afraid we’ve missed something important in this parable. In Jesus’ story, the owner gave to each person “according to their ability.” He gave each of them what he knew they could successfully oversee.

Here’s a well-known leadership principle: Giving too much to someone too soon sets them up for failure, especially if it’s well beyond their capability or gift-mix. Stretching people is fine, but breaking individuals with a load far beyond their capacity is not.

Of course, the main point of the parable is simple: Be faithful with what you have. Be diligent. Work hard. Do your best. But for heaven’s sake, don’t compare yourself to the five-talent people.

For years, I fell into the trap of comparison.

I would watch myself on video or read something I’d written and get mildly depressed because, well, because I was average. It didn’t take me long to realize that I’d never be a Rick Warren, Bill Hybels or an Andy Stanley.

Sadly, I measured myself and my success by a standard that God never had put on me.

Certainly, I want to grow and develop as a teacher and an author, but I’ll never be gifted to speak like Beth Moore or write like C.S. Lewis.

And it’s okay.

Really. It’s fine.

I don’t have to be a “Big L” leader to be counted trustworthy or approved by the Father.

What am I responsible to do?

Grow. Be faithful. Be committed and true. Be the best me I can be in Christ and stay the course no matter what may come.

God expects you and me to use what He gave us. He’s looking for devoted, reliable, and dedicated servants, not superstars.

When Jesus returns, He won’t care whether or not you made it on TV or a bestseller list (and I suspect you won’t care then either). The only question will be, did you do your best with His investment in you? And the only thing you will want to hear is, “Good work! You did your job well” (Mark 25:21 MSG).

Contrary to popular opinion, you don’t have to be motivated by a fear of being average. Not everyone is born to be great.

In reality, average does not always mean mediocre, and ordinary doesn’t always mean you’re second-rate. The truth is, average is acceptable if average is your best. Just be better tomorrow than you are today.

So, take a deep breath. It’s okay to be normal. Most of us are.

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14 Responses to You’re Not Always a “Great” Leader (and It’s Okay)

  1. Yep. It is better to be faithful than famous, and worse to be fearful than a failure.

    At least, that’s what i always got out of that parable. Thanks, Dad!

  2. I like this, Kurt. The big guy has a role that suits his gifting and he’s called to fulfill that role. Another guy (or gal) may not be in the forefront or regarded as extraordinary
    but that doesn’t mean the role isn’t truly great.

  3. Thank you Kurt. I needed this today. I’m going to add that it’s ok if my kids are average with flashes of brilliance. Thank you for your message Sunday and for your book “Epic Grace”. I was visiting from Lewiston and happy to get your book at church! I’ve been reading and soaking in grace. When I finish reading “Epic Grace” I’m excited to pass it on but also feeling like I will want to just start at the beginning and read it again for myself! I’m going to need to buy more copies. Thank you for sharing your gift of writing with us. Thank you for being faithful with what you have been given!

  4. God doesn’t expect us to BE the best in the eyes of the world, but only to DO our best with the gifts He’s given each of us. If we sit back complacently, saying we’ll never amount to anything, we will be like man who hid the one sack of gold in the ground. And truth be told, we won’t amount to anything because we never even tried!
    Great post, Kurt!
    Blessings!

  5. Jerry Cooke had a grasp on this. His words have had long term impact on how I choose to live life. “Do well that which God has called you to do. Don’t spend time doing well, that which He has not called you to do.”
    Great man! Great words!!

Your Pastor is Broken (and It’s Okay)

Your Pastor is Broken (and It’s Okay)

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An old friend, Richard, recently called me. He used to live in town and attend my church. For the past seven years or so, he’s been a member of a large church in Phoenix.

We were catching up and reminiscing about old friends when he said to me, “I had coffee with my current men’s pastor yesterday, and he told me some honest things about his marriage and about something stupid he said to his wife.”

I chimed in, “That’s cool!”

He awkwardly paused, and then said with a confused tone, “How is that cool?”

“It’s cool that your pastor owned his stuff and that he’s being real with you. It’s the people who try to hide and deny their sins that worry me.”

Bob said, “I guess I expected the guy pastoring men to be . . . well . . . to be more spiritually mature.”

Without hesitation, I reminded Bob of the many times he heard me tell stories of my idiocy. I also told him we all walk with a limp, and none of us is without a soul blemish or two (or twenty).

On this side of eternity, the reality we don’t like to admit, but must, is that we all fall short of perfection.

We say things that hurt.

We do things that offend.

We think things we don’t want to think.

We go places in our hearts that are dark and terribly inconsistent with who we are in Christ.

If you can relate, then welcome to the human race.

Yes, we are being transformed into the image of Christ. Of course, we should be growing. The plan is for us to mature in our faith and to sin less.

But most of us miss the marks of purity and perfection on a fairly regular basis—pastors included.

I’ve been in ministry for nearly forty years. I’ve pastored small churches and a big church. I’ve been on large church staffs. I’ve also been close to quite a few mega-church pastors over the years.

I can assure you of this: every pastor is fractured, and some more than you might imagine.

But as someone once pointed out, it is our fractures that allow God’s light in and out of our souls.

Because I am broken, I am humbled, and God delights to work with the humble (James 4:6).

Because I am fractured, I am relatable, and people want to connect with a person who is authentic and true.

By the way, Paul, the great missionary and author of most of the New Testament, boasted about his weaknesses.

In another recent blog, I mentioned my new favorite book, People of the Second Chance. If I could afford it, I would buy a copy of this encouraging book for all of my family and friends. It’s that good!

In the book, Mike Foster says, “We don’t need to hide our flaws. We need to own them. We need to ditch perfectionism and own our imperfections. The simple truth is this: perfection is impossible. It’s not attainable. You will never, ever be perfect. Our imperfections are what make us human, and they help us relate to each other. Don’t seek perfection. Seek goodness. Wonderful, messy, love-saturated goodness.”

Foster goes on to write, “Nobody feels more pressure to be perfect than the person in the pulpit.”

Wow. When I grow up, I want to write like Mike!

Let me be clear; not for a second am I suggesting we just wallow in our weaknesses. Of course, holiness matters. I never want to use my human condition of imperfection as an excuse to keep sinning.

However . . .

I will sin.

I will fail.

I am broken.

But . . .

I am growing.

I am free from shame.

I am loved.

When we come to this place of peace despite our imperfections, we find it much easier to love ourselves, to live free of fear, and to love others as we are loved. Grace is grown here.

Yes, your pastor is broken, and it’s okay; you are too.

Welcome to the fellowship of the fractured.

“We now have this light shining in our hearts,

 but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars

containing this great treasure.

This makes it clear that our

great power is from God,

not from ourselves.”

2 Corinthians 4:7 (NLT)

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10 Responses to Your Pastor is Broken (and It’s Okay)

  1. Thank you Kurt. Thus is just what I needed right now. What an awesome feeling to know that you’re not alone in being imperfect and to know that we can keep being loved and able to always keep going forward. Amen!

    • I love what Steven Furtick wrote in (Un)Qualified, “God knows everything about you–including the ugly parts, the broken parts, the dysfunctional parts–yet he still believes in you. He still has a future and a hope for you.”
      Glad you were encouraged today, Mari. You are loved!

  2. That common saying of You are never truly alone…it MEANS something when a person you like or look up to shows/talks about their broken parts…it really doesn’t hit home that you are NOT alone in whatever hardship going on in your life until it’s relatable with someone else. THIS is why I really like your blog… it CONSTANTLY reminds me we ALL just want love & to be loved no matter what.

  3. Thanks for the great post. What is the best way of learning, seems to me it comes from failing. I would assume learning to be pure love would require the infinite grace of God plus a lot of failure, or recognition of failure on our part, part of our learning experience. Looking forward to your next blog and sermon. Love in Christ to you.

  4. Yes, we are all broken vessels, but we can shine God’s light through the cracks.
    Thank you for your honesty and candidness here, Kurt! It’s certainly a message we all need to hear.
    Blessings!

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