The Power of Self-Examination

The Power of Self-Examination

Have you ever had to check yourself out? I remember when I was a kid in Boy Scouts having to do a “tick check” on myself whenever I came back from the woods. It was a very necessary (while it lacked in gracefulness and modesty) part of returning home. I have probably done this hundreds of times and only found 2 or 3.

But I am pretty glad I found those 2-3. And yes, there is an entirely awkward story from early in my marriage about a tick check.

Think of the modern health care industry. All of us are instructed on several self-examinations for different types of cancer. We know it is up to us to take responsibility for our own long term health.

There is a different type of self-examination. St. Ignatius of Loyola is generally considered to be the go-to resource for Christian self-examination. He wrote an entire prayer book on the practice. In many ways, you can sum up what he said with this quote.

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I think self-examination is a practice we all need to take on and it is easier than we think. I want to share with you a little about why it matters and how easy it is to add it into your life.

Let’s talk about the power of self-examination

Self-examination matters because it is one of the ways we get into the critical issues of the heart. It means taking responsibility for “the self”. The Self is the critical part of our hearts where free will and response are worked out. Taming The Self is an act of sanctification. It is the mode (post-justification) where we are willingly giving ourselves up to God, allowing the tough work to be done by the Holy Spirit and creating a transformed heart.

Two things are happening when we take responsibility for The Self.

1. We are taking responsibility for the inward AND outward act of submission to Jesus

2. We are participating in the transforming life of God in the world. Our story then is added to the story of the world.

The easiest way to begin self-examination is asking ourselves tough questions. As a Wesleyan, it’s part of my own DNA. I wrote about this process of tough questions here | Beatles or Stones: Asking Ourselves the Tough Questions |.

Lately, I have been asking myself the same question every morning for a couple of weeks. It lets me really marinate it all in and get honest. It is interesting how my answer gets deeper and deeper every morning. I find myself growing tremendously inside and really changing my outward actions.

Here is my current question.

How have I contributed to the person I am today?

This question lets me spread things out wide. I can think both positive and negative. I can take personal responsibility for my sinfulness and how I sometimes act out and respond from broken places. I can also look at how the hard work of sanctification has been playing out and recreating me into the image of Christ.

I challenge you to think of the tough questions you need to be asking yourself. It will be worth it. Trust me.

Good Reads quotes tagged self-examination
Ignation Spirituality
The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius


Productive Pastor 23: How To Lose a Week (and not lose it all)


Ok listeners. It’s time to get into the big stuff. Not the easy, entry level time management, but the stuff of practitioners and productivity evangelists. This episode is about how to lose a work week and not lose your sanity. From time to time we all have to do it. The very fear of this is probably one of the reasons people in ministry don’t sabbath well. We are scared to be out of town because of all the work we might get behind on.

The List

Life Hacks of the Rich and Famous: Journl
I especially love the idea of rhythm and routine. It helps out tremendously when you are willing to delegate the tiny decisions to the same thing, habit or practice.

The New Habit Challenge: Make a Better To Do List: Rachel Gillett
This is a great blog post. Just making a to do list isn’t enough. Here is how to make the list actually work for you. I really like the idea of knocking out what you absolutely hate-but then building the momentum to get through the day.

How To Lose a Week (and not lose it all)

1. Know what you do.
This is wear a routine of weekly reviews plus a great template practice comes in handy. You can easily look at what you are regularly getting done so you can plan out your attack.

2. What can you NOT do?
Everyone has those tasks they think are absolutely essential. Let’s seriously think how many of those can’t get dropped or put off for the next week.

3. What can YOU not do?
This is a perfect time to start delegating. Try to hand off a task to someone just to see how well it goes. You might be able to teach them something as well as teach yourself something.

4. What can you work ahead on?
Having a production calendar and a preaching calendar are essential. When you know for a few weeks you are going out of town you can slowly work towards creating some time margin.

5. Can you squeeze in a little time while you are gone?
What about an hour in the morning or missing a session of the conference. If you plan to give yourself a brief moment of time you can take care of the absolute essentials or put out any fires.

6. Plan your reentry.
Think about what your first day might look like. Give yourself the space to actually accomplish what absolutely needs to get done that first day back.

Resources Mentioned:
The Four Hour Work Week
The War of Art

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My Biggest Takeaways from New Room 2014

Last week I had a great time at New Room, a conference sponsored by Seedbed and the Wesleyan Covenant Network. I was privileged to work with the team that became Seedbed in seminary, so my opinion and experience is a little biased. The several hundred people in attendance learned from great speakers and spent plenty of time hanging out, eating great meals and learning from each other.


Here are my takeaways from New Room.

They are organized in three categories; Teaching, Social and Movement



Alan and Deb Hirsch: This wonderful couple challenged us all officially and unofficially. They were around hanging out and spending time with folks throughout the week. I had several chances to spend time with them and I think they are the most genuine high profile people in the world of Christianity I keep up with.

Alan and Deb are amazing at communicating high level information and practicality simultaneously. As a theory nerd, I totally jive with them.

Alan told us this statement in his closing session and it energized me more than anything else.

alanDeb also shared 6 crazy good incarnational practices. They were Presence, Proximity, Prevenience, Powerlessness, Passion and Proclamation.  As I am planting a new church, all 6 of these deeply matter.

Ed Stetzer: Ed is a Southern Baptist pastor and researcher. He is known for his work with Lifeway and a few great books. We joked a little about Ed being our token Calvinist at the conference (even though he isn’t).

Ed challenged Wesleyans and especially those in the UMC to get it together. He shared what our missional DNA is and how it is poised to greatly affect the west. One of the things he said which resonated was his emphasis on church planting. Any movement needs 3% replication each year to stay afloat. This means the Louisiana Annual Conference of the UMC needs to start around 15 churches a year.

Joe Dongell: Dr. Dongell was my IBS (not the disease, inductive Bible study) professor in seminary. I was geared up for his presentation and was disappointed at the lack of a whiteboard and his notorious green briefcase. (JK). Dr. Dongell really spread his wings out and offered us something he had been working through with great passion and surprise.

In the way only Dr. Dongell could have, he went through the entirety of Wesley’s works twice and extracted the core importance of Love to Wesleyans. He then reevaluated what Love actually is and challenged us to live in this way.

I also really enjoyed the two group conversations about church planting and the time with Maxie Dunham, Tim Tennent and Billy Abraham.


If you noticed many of my takeways came from day 1, it’s because I had an absolute ball reconnecting with people and meeting new friends. This is the genius of New Room. It is set up for connection and shared learning.

My hosts in The Threshing Floor also had a great time with listeners and recording a live episode with friends. I have never been to an event this large that was also as relational.

Having each attendee’s twitter handle on their nametag was a great idea. I met so many people I have been having conversations with for years. It was a special delight to finally meet a few friends I have become really close with online.


If one word kept coming up, it was movement. But movements are a tricky thing. They have to be organic and owned. Here are a few things I think greatly contributed to the vibe.

Justin Wise, Phil Tallon, Jeremy Steele and Jessica Lagrone all had great presentations with amazing information. But the thing that stuck out to me across all four of their teachings was an excellence in modern communication. They understood how to actually use screens, integrated humor and personality and never distracted.

Mark Swayze, Mark Benjamin and Drew Causey covered the place with great music. We sung. A lot. And it was good. We learned new songs, sang old songs from our tradition and seriously felt the presence of the Holy Spirit. I don’t think I have ever said that about a conference before.

The Environment. JD, Andrew, Andy and their team created a great environment. It was casual, interactive and encouraged conversation. I seriously can’t think of a thing that felt out of place. It was as much an influence as anything taught or sung.

I had a great time at New Room. I hope this is an annual event and I can’t imagine how it could get any better.

Productive Pastor 22: How To Destroy a Massive To-Do List


Have you ever almost shut down from the stress of loosing control of your to-do list? Don’t lie. You have. We all have.

In this episode of The Productive Pastor I share the 5 ways you can destroy a massive to-do list and set yourself up for future productivity success.

The List

1. 1 Big and Three Medium: John Zeratsky
I found this tweet back in July. It caused an interesting discussion as well as got my mind working. I have started doing this the last few weeks. This is a simple life hack.

2. 7 Things You Can Do on Friday to Make Monday Awesome: Kevin Daum
My wife always clears her desk at the end of a workday. On Friday, she even does more. It all goes into making Monday better. Kevin gives 7 great tips for you to integrate into your workweek to make next week better.

3. Achieve Your Goals by Focusing on Critical Activities: Harry Che
What is absolutely critical for you to do today? Most of us can’t answer that question. The secret sauce to hitting goals is to know what you need to do.

to-do list

How To Destroy A Massive To-Do List

1. Collect it.
These thing are sitting in your head and other places taking up emotional energy. Carve out some time and just get everything on paper. I prefer post-it notes and a sharpie. David Allen’s classic Getting Things Done talks about the benefit of the capture process.

2. Get it all in the same place.
Once you have a giant stack of post-it’s, start writing them down. You can do this in a digital document, but I prefer paper (it makes the next step easier). Don’t try to organize just yet.

3. Filter out what can die.
What has been dropped for so long the damage has already been done? What really doesn’t matter? What doesn’t move things forward and might have little to no benefit?

Let them die.

4. Categorize and rank importance.
What items on your list go together? Home, work, school, personal…there will be plenty. You will most likely even have some sub categories. I generally do this first level with a highlighter.

Once you have them grouped, start ranking them by importance. I prefer the Eisenhower Method. Start marking what is important and urgent. Those are your mission critical tasks.

5. What is yours alone and what can be delegated?
Delegation is a skill I am working on (I am currently between horrible and bad). Michael Hyatt’s work on delegation is the best I know of.

Last week my Dad emailed me. He is a great pastor and has been featured on the show before. He gave me advice he first heard from Bill Hybels. He told me “when your stress levels are high, up your solitude and exercise.” Let me tell you how much this has helped me the last few weeks!

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