Perfectionism kills Productivity


Perfectionism kills productivity by John Miller

I don’t post as often because I can never be perfect.  

My perfectionism kills productivity.  

I just snagged a copy of Jon Acuff’s book “Finish” and it’s helping me self-diagnose as a low-key perfectionist.  It’s unexpected because I’m fine with projects being “good enough.”  I don’t care if my house or office is hyper-neat and I’ll wear a shirt that has a little bit of ketchup on the front.  However, when it comes to writing, “good enough” still needs to be workshopped for another week until it’s “absolute, spotless perfection.”  I shoot for literary bliss, folks.  Intellectual, emotional, and spiritual steak. 

I’ll be honest, I want that Richard Foster status, that Francis Chan sheen.  I want to write the next Purpose Driven Life or Blue Like Jazz. I’m rarely confident enough to push “send.”  I have to remember that anything N.T. Wright pens, which to me is absolute gold, is still heavily criticized.  We cannot escape it.  There is no perfect, and that’s good for me.

I’ve preached sermons where dozens of people have come up to me and told me what an impact my message had on them while a few others send me a nasty email or even confront my co-workers about how terrible my sermon was.  I can expect that my whole life and career. 

I’m going to have typos.

I’m going to make mistakes.  And I’m going to write a piece (perhaps this one) that makes you say, “meh, I like his other stuff better.”  I’m coping with that. 

In “Big Magic,”  Elizabeth Gilbert talked about how she wished F. Scott Fitzgerald had kept writing, even if it wasn’t the success his earlier books had been.  He was paralyzed for many reasons, one being fear of bad reviews (a sneaky adversary to perfectionism).  He couldn’t write a perfect book.  But then again, none of us can.  None of us can write or perform the perfect anything! 

In sports, no NBA team has ever had a perfect season, or even gone unbeaten all the way through the playoffs. Even in the Dolphins perfect 1972 season, Bob Griese (who missed the majority of the season due to injury) threw only four touchdowns with four interceptions.  Perfectionism isn’t allowed.

It’s not that I’m going to stop trying to make things good, or quit editing what I write.  I’m just giving up on the illusion of perfection so I can clearly click “submit.” 

(Jesus juke:  God doesn’t require perfection out of us, either.  Take that nugget in case you want to count this as your “devotional” for the day)

Leave a comment:  What in your life have you never started (or finished) because you aspired to some sort of perfectionist dream? 

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What is Gentleness?

What is Gentleness

What is Gentleness by John Miller

I’ve got a small umbrella of leadership at the moment.  I’m a staff pastor of a mid-sized church and oversee about seventy wonderful volunteers.  I also am a father of two high energy, incredible kids.  Most of the time, my kids obey me (they’re both less than 3 so I don’t get much sass…YET) and most of the time my team is the epitome of amazingness. 

But then sometimes they’re not. Continue reading “What is Gentleness?”

We Abandon Spiritual Infants

We Abandon Spiritual Infants

Spiritual infants, or brand new Christians, should be protected, but instead our local church or social media loving saints will abandon them.  I have done this, and I’m fairly certain you have as well.  The spiritual infants in our lives need a launching pad for practicing faith, for growth, and for learning to walk.  Instead…

We abandon spiritual infants. 

It’s like this:  My friend Chris lost over 100 pounds.  It was an impressive feat, no doubt.  His first step to weight loss?  Switching from regular Coca-Cola to Coke Zero.  Once he made the switch he saw ten pounds slide right off and he was hooked.  Chris began making more changes to his habits:  he began cooking more meals at home, he bought a bike and would ride occasionally throughout the week, later he switched to drinking water with every meal and at least 80 oz a day.  After following this pattern for over a year, Chris went from 350 to 250 pounds.  It was a dramatic change, and we were all proud of him. 

We celebrate when people make little changes in the realm of fitness.  We don’t when it comes to Christlikeness.  At some point we’ve come to believe that as soon as you say “Jesus is Lord” you’ve got to have all your ducks in a row.  Saying “Jesus is Lord” doesn’t make you perfect.  We all have heard testimonies of people who have given their lives to the Lord and never taken another sip of alcohol or touched a pack of cigarettes.  To those people, I say, “Congratulations! Praise God for what he did in your life!”  For the rest of us I quote Luke 4:25 – “I assure you there were many other widows in Israel in Elijah’s time…” Elijah had done an amazing life-saving miracle for a widow, but Jesus says there were many more who didn’t receive that same act of God. 

I can assure you that there are many other Christ followers in the world…

And Jesus didn’t pop into our lives and say, “Now that you believe in me, here’s a heaping helping of joy!  Your depression?  GONE!  Self-discipline is tough for you?  Ka-pow, not anymore!  While we’re add it, take some peace and give me that anxiousness.  And here’s some patience to match!”

For most of us, Jesus doesn’t do the whole remodeling at once.  Jesus does it one room at a time.

Read this:  Jesus with a Vacuum – How spiritual maturity works  

Recently, some famous actors and pop stars have professed a newfound faith in Jesus.  Praise God for that.  Unfortunately, we Christians have done what we’re infamous for:  we hop on the judgement train. 

“He can’t be a real Christian because he still sings about sex!”

“He didn’t really give his life to Jesus because he still says swear words in his movies.”

“He just got arrested, no Christians get arrested!”

Let’s pull it together here, friends.  They accepted Jesus and switched to Coke Zero.  They haven’t bough a bike yet, but give them time.  The Bible calls them “spiritual infants.”  Being a baby is not a fault.  It’s a natural stage for everyone.  The problem is when someone has been a Christ-follower for years and is still sucking their thumb. 

We know that we are progressing Spiritually if we see ourselves increasing in:


Also read this:  9 Questions Every Christian should ask themselves

But we do not give much grace to people who have just become Christ followers.  Instead, we get angry when infants make a mess in their spiritual diapers.  We sound more like the 5 year old brothers and sisters complaining about how bad the baby stinks than the loving mother or father who is quick to clean the mess and console the crying newborn. 

100 pounds doesn’t fall off in an instant.

An infant is not instantly potty-trained.

No one takes one step and reaches the fifth floor.

Do you know what new believers will do when they feel the bludgeons of their fellow believers’ criticisms?  They’ll decide that they like Jesus but not the church—which leads to some terrible theology and often a form of pseudo-christianity.  Just like that, spiritual infants are abandoned. You can make it through life a believer without a church just like you can cross the Pacific without a boat.  Technically it’s possible, but it’s not going to happen.   Or worse, these new criticized believers will see just how immature their more experienced brothers and sisters are, and they’ll give up the race.  If you lost 20 pounds ten years ago, you don’t have the right to harass someone who orders diet Pepsi at Taco Bell. 

Let’s be better.  Let’s become more comfortable accepting the flawed followers, the ones searching for Jesus, the first-steppers, the ones who still swear like sailors but also proclaim Jesus as the King.  Let’s see that our spiritual infants find a home among us, feel comfortable to grow, learn to walk, soil themselves, and come to spiritual adulthood at their own pace.


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Our Salvation Doesn’t Hinge on our Sinlessness

Our Salvation Doesn't Hinge on our Sinlessness
Salvation doesn’t hinge on our sinlessness.  If we give God the credit of omniscience, if we truly believe he knows us better than we know ourselves, then we must submit that he was aware of all the sins we would ever commit.  Can salvation really come to someone with my past or my present?

Continue reading “Our Salvation Doesn’t Hinge on our Sinlessness”

Jesus with a Vacuum: How spiritual maturity works

Jesus with a Vacuum: How Spiritual Maturity Works

Jesus with a Vacuum: How spiritual maturity works by John Miller

I’m no hoarder, but I’m clutter-ful. I’ll put things in rooms where they don’t belong just to get them out of the way. Then I’ll find them 3 months later and wonder, “how did that get there?”  A great book or a left shoe drowns in the piles of Goodwill-steals.  My garage sale skills outpace my current storage capacity.  I build my collection one day, one minute, one purchase at a time.

One by one, the rooms in my home begin to fill up with trash and treasures, dust and diamonds.

Paul tells the church in Colosse to “work out [their] salvation” (2:12). That doesn’t negate what Christ has done for us on the cross. We are saved by grace, not by works. That being said, once we’ve accepted God’s free gift of forgiveness and become citizens of his kingdom, we’ve got to figure out what that looks like. We’ve got to know what that feels like. We’ve got to work things out.

(Read Our Salvation Doesn’t Hinge on our Sinlessness)

I imagine spiritual maturity like this:

When we accept Jesus’ rule in our lives, we give him the master key to our heart. Jesus enters in with a box of heavy duty trash bags, a broom, a mop, rubber gloves, and enough disinfectant spray to fumigate the empire state building.

You see, the homes of our hearts are cluttered.  Over the years we’ve filled it with both trash and treasure.  We’ve got hallways full of rooms where we’ve packed emotions and bad feelings, nooks where we’ve hidden sins but they’ve grown and expanded to cover the whole wall. Furniture is covered in decaying decisions. We keep our living room nice and tidy, and the hallways look spotless just in case anyone else comes over for a visit. Just as long as they don’t go into the rooms themselves, we’re okay.

Sin seeps

Every once in a while, some of our sin, like uncontrollable anger stemming from pride, will seep out under the cracks of a door and spill into the hallway. Inevitably, that sin will be seen by others. We’ll apologize, go scoop up our mess and throw it back into the locked room. These problems would take too long to actually sit down and deal with, so we toss them as far as possible and quickly seal the door shut behind us.

Jesus, on the other hands, takes the key we’ve given him and calmly, intentionally, puts it in the lock and turns. The mess begins to spill out, but it doesn’t phase him. He grabs his box, pulls out a heavy duty garbage bag, and begins scooping. He takes care of the big pieces in obvious fashion, tossing it out, burning it, whatever it takes to get rid of it. Then he goes for the deep clean. This doesn’t feel so great. Jesus invites us to come into the once messy room that’s been dutifully vacuumed and mopped. It looks so much better. We call it a triumph, say “Jesus! You did it!”

Then he turns over the couch. We shudder at stains and mold and fears and regrets and gunk. It’s much much more than we’ve expected. Jesus deep cleans the rooms of our hearts in ways we never could have expected needed to be cleaned.

(The church often abandons Spiritual Infants. Read more here)

Sometimes to bring us to spiritual maturity, Jesus won’t just clean, he’ll declutter.

In my heart, I’ll wrap my arms around my possessions and say, “Surely, Lord, I don’t need to get rid of this! This is something I like, something I love even! It doesn’t look like that other gunk, now does it?”

Whenever that happens, Jesus will hold out both of his hands, palms up. His left hand will be empty, ready for me to place my treasure in his palm. The second hand holds the key to my heart. Either you give it all to me, he seems to say, or I’ll let your will be done.

Jesus is patient

Jesus often cleans out the home of my heart despite my protests.  He patiently waits through my tantrums.  The Cleaner sticks around until I am ready for his services.

When he’s worked on my room of Anger, he’ll close the door behind him, walk down the hallway to the room of Gossip, insert the master key, turn, and begin the process again.  Spiritual maturity isn’t a quick process.

Do I think that Jesus is going to be done with my heart any time soon? Not at all. I’m messier than I ever knew. I think we all are, actually. Have you had one of those moments where you’ve gotten angry and burst out with a hateful word or insult before you could stop yourself and immediately think, “where did that come from?” I think that scurried out from under the couch of the Anger room. Or maybe it seeped out from under the door and into the hallway.

Our hope for spiritual maturity

We can be free from sin, because anything is possible with Christ. I can’t deep clean my heart alone. Jesus will help to do this work. In fact, I need him to do the heavy lifting.  Spiritual maturity develops because of Jesus’ hard work, not my ability to clean myself up.

I’m a work in progress. Each day I find new messes, and each day I’m cleaned a little more.

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Are we really following Jesus?

Are we really following Jesus? What does it mean to follow Jesus? Can we follow Jesus and still sin? Check out this Christian blog about following Jesus to learn more about spiritual growth
What makes a Christ follower?

Are we really interested in following Jesus?  For years we learned we become a Christian the moment we say the prayer, hit the altar, raise our hand, fill out the card announcing that we believe Jesus is God and accept his sacrificial death as payment for our sins.  We are accepting a free gift.

I still believe that moment assures our salvation based on my understanding of Romans 10.

On the other hand, why did Jesus call the gate to eternal life “narrow?”  Has the gate widened with the global popularity of the Christian faith?

Think about this:  Judas Iscariot was a literal follower of Jesus. As in, he walked behind Jesus carrying the money bags.  Judas also skimmed a bit off the top.

Continue reading “Are we really following Jesus?”

What is Your Life Saying?

What is your life saying?

What is your life saying by John Miller

It’s important to be able to read your own handwriting.

Sometimes I’ll jot down writing prompts for me to return to later and flesh out.  Unfortunately, my penmanship is lacking.   I’ll have to squint and pause, attempting to magically create a word from the shapes I had once scribbled.  Unreadable handwriting is time-waster, but I still struggle with it because sloppy jotting is easiest in a hurry.

Lately I’ve been learning, it’s important to be able to read your own handwriting. Continue reading “What is Your Life Saying?”

A New Way of Thinking about Unanswered Prayers

A new way of thinking about Unanswered Prayer

A New Way of Thinking about Unanswered Prayer by John Miller

Pray and say “in Jesus’ Name.” Have faith and wait.  That’s the formula, right? But when nothing happens, what do we do? What are we supposed to do with unanswered prayer?

Christians often use bible verses like magic spells.  We pray Jeremiah 29:11 as if the words will cause a holy light to envelope us, our bank accounts to multiply like loaves and fishes, our relationship problems to evaporate the Gideon’s fleece dew, and life’s troubles to part like Red Sea waters. 

And yet it doesn’t work. 

Continue reading “A New Way of Thinking about Unanswered Prayers”

Leadership Short: Superman Lifting Weights

How to grow as a leader

Superman Lifting Weights by John Miller

Here’s a story I love about how to grow as a leader: A pastor I highly respect mapped out, on a podcast, how he was growing as a leader.  I thought How can he grow as a leader? He’s already the best!  My bookshelves are peppered with heavily highlighted copies of teacher’s leadership material.  If I got to his level of influence, I’d be at the pinnacle of my career.  Nowhere to go but down, right?  Instead, this pastor openly verbalized his desire to grow. 

It’s like Superman lifting weights. 

Continue reading “Leadership Short: Superman Lifting Weights”

Why You Never Do the Things you Want (and how to fix it)

Why You Never Do the Things you Want (and how to fix it) by John Miller

Last year I blogged about new month resolutions.  The concepts are valuable—setting short term goals, not waiting until a “season” is over before you start improving yourself—but in practice the plan fell short.  I broke up long term goals of learning French, playing the guitar into weekly actionable items of practicing X amount of times or playing DuoLingo for X amount. 

The concept was solid. 

I still didn’t do it.

Continue reading “Why You Never Do the Things you Want (and how to fix it)”