My Top 10 Spiritual Leadership Principles

The year 2020 has been quite unique with the COVID-19 virus, the protests and riots, the political unrest and the economic turmoil. That’s just in the first 7 months.

As I look back over the first part of 2020 there is so much I have learned or that has been reinforced in me. I’ve been in some sort of leadership position since I was in my early 20’s. Over those 30 years I’ve learned a lot about leadership, made a lot of mistakes, and had to unlearn some things as well.

There are some guiding principles that have helped me to lead better, whether at work or at home. This tough year has reenforced these principles for me and I hope they will help you as a leader.

Here are 10 principles that guide my leadership:

  1. Vision is Vital – In times of turmoil, fasted paced change and chaos, a clear compelling vision is so important. It’s during those hard times that vision gives people the right perspective, and helps people to focus on the right things. Communicating the vision on a regular basis is also vital. Great leaders repeat themselves over and over when it comes to vision. Consistent, clear communication of where you are going as an organization or a family will keep your team pulling in the right direction. Most people need a regular reminder for why they are doing what they are doing, and why they are part of the organization.
  2. Be Flexible with your plans but firm on the vision – When things are uncertain and chaotic in the world around you, being able to change plans quickly can be the difference between success and failure. The best leaders are always evaluating their plans and strategies to make sure they still make sense and are working. Listening and asking the right questions can really help in knowing when to be flexible and when to be firm.
  3. Pray for Wisdom – Being in leadership means that you have to make some difficult decisions. It also means that you will be criticized and questioned. Asking God for wisdom is a way to gain clarity, check your motives and gain deeper insight. James 1:5 says “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” Connecting with God is a huge advantage in leadership, making this part of your daily life will make you a better leader.
  4. Learn to be patient and decisive – This one is so hard, especially for high D leaders. Often it is wise to pray and wait, to plan and wait, to think and wait. One of the keys to great leadership is the ability to be patient and yet bold and decisive when the timing is right. That means you have to understand your vision, your people, your culture and the world around you. As a leader you never have all the facts and you can’t wait for a perfect time. Managing the tension between being patient and taking action is a leadership skill that takes time to get good at. Often it takes trial and error, life lessons and lot’s of prayer to get really good at this.
  5. Seek wise counsel – The people you have around you, and the people that you listen to are so critical for any leader. When things are chaotic you need some wise mentors that can speak into the situation and ask the right questions. Great leaders are constantly looking for the best mentors to help them navigate the uncertain waters and avoid making big mistakes. Seeking out counsel can help you avoid unnecessary pain and struggle.
  6. Make time for important relationships – When things are changing around you and your busy and stressed, it’s vital to take time for family, friends and teammates. Don’t neglect the people around you, plan and schedule time with them to stay connected. Fight against isolating yourself as a leader. Those relationships will nourish you emotionally and strengthen you personally and the people around you.
  7. Find a regular rhythm of rest – This is another hard thing to do for hard charging leaders. Resting looks different for everyone, but find those things that recharge you, and disconnect you from the day to day stress of your leadership. Take at least one day a week off and really rest. It makes you sharper, more likeable and may even help you live longer.
  8. Spend time with God Daily – This is one of the most important things you can do no matter what is going on around you. Daily prayer, reading God’s word, devotions, meditating on Scripture are all ways Christian leaders can stay sharp and focused on the right things. Taking care of your soul helps you keep your priorities in the right place, and helps you grow spiritually.
  9. Pay attention to your emotions – It times of chaos and stress emotions can get out of whack. Negative emotions are a warning sign that something is wrong. If you are getting lots of negative emotions it can spiral you downward into depression, anxiety and darkness. In that state of mind it’s very difficult to make good decisions and lead well. If your struggling emotionally, ask for help. Talk to a trusted mentor, go to a Christian counselor or trusted Pastor. Talk about what is contributing to the negative emotions. You can also work on what your putting into your mind like social media and news. Be careful who your listening to, and make sure you are spending time with God.
  10. Lead with Love – This is all about your heart and what is motivating you. Caring about the people you lead and wanting what is best for them builds a great culture. When it comes to leading with love Paul gives us great advice in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonors others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” You may not have thought about that as a leadership verse, but think about the kind of leader you love to follow. Usually it’s because they are doing much of what Paul wrote about in those passages. At work or at home, lead with love.

Those are a few critical principles that have helped me along the way. Keep working on yourself, because the healthier you are as a leader the healthier your organization and the people around you will be. Lead on and Lead well.

5 Qualities People Want in Their Leader

I’ve been watching what’s been happening in our world over the last several months and it’s been interesting to see how people are leading through a challenging, difficult time. Businesses have been disrupted, shut down or changed in some way. Schools and non-profits have been impacted in similar ways. Our government at all levels has been challenged in unprecedented ways.

There are no perfect leaders, everyone has flaws, weaknesses, and of course we all make mistakes. Leaders have to make difficult decisions, make judgement calls and sometimes take risks in the midst of the uncertainty.

It’s also very easy to pick out qualities we don’t like in the people that are leading us. I’m sure you could list out several right now. You are probably also thinking about some leaders that you don’t like or connect with.

As I thought about qualities that I appreciate most in leaders around me, these are the ones that came to mind. These qualities also work in the home with your spouse and children. Leading at home is just as important as leading at work. As you read these think about how you can apply these in both places.

  1. Speaking the Truth with Love – I appreciate when a leader is upfront and honest and shoots straight with me. I equally appreciate a leader that can shoot straight with me and say it in a kind way. Leaders that are honest whether it’s good news or bad news are highly respected. If they are able to do it in a loving, encouraging way it builds up the loyalty and respect even more. Leaders that are truthful and loving will build a strong team and a healthy home.
  2. Showing Genuine Appreciation – Leaders that show regular appreciation for people, and are truly genuine about it are highly respected. The ability to encourage people by noticing good behavior and accomplishments and quickly acknowledging it is a rare quality. A leader that does this both publicly and privately will quickly win over their team if it’s done with a genuine heart that cares about each person. A leader that believes in the people they are leading shows regular appreciation and encouragement. It takes great discipline and focus to do this on a regular basis.
  3. Expressing Care and Concern – When people know that you really care about them, their respect and loyalty skyrocket. You can’t fake this, it needs to be genuine. Leaders that take the time to get to know you, ask about your family and your personal interests are also pretty rare these days. Walking slowly, listening and remembering, sending a note or a text to see how you are doing, those are game changers in leadership. Those small acts of care build a healthy culture. Everyone goes through hard times, when your leader listens, understands and helps as much as possible, it really matters.
  4. Being Decisive and Flexible – Most people appreciate a leader that can make wise, quick decisions. It keeps things moving and helps people get things done. When you add to that a leader that is willing to change their mind, go in a different direction, and listens for the best ideas, you have a highly respected leader. The great leaders are also quick to empower other people to make decisions and encourage them to be flexible as well.
  5. Humble yet Persistent – A leader that has a serving mindset and is always trying to lift others up builds trust and respect. Combine that humble mindset with being persistent and focused and you have a leader that can accomplish a lot, and has a healthy strong team. You can’t fake humble, a leader needs to truly desire to serve people and help them get better. That never give up attitude is also vital for an organization to survive and grow. These are the leaders that can navigate the dangerous waters of chaos, disruption and adversity and come out stronger and better.

One last thought about great leadership. Emotional health is also extremely important when it comes to leadership at work and at home. When you have damage emotions it comes out in the way that you lead. Before you can improve any of the qualities above, it’s important to work on your emotional health.

One of the best ways to do that is through spiritual growth. Deepening your relationship with God can bring real, long lasting healing to damaged emotions. Working through forgiveness, understanding God’s grace and mercy, and seeing yourself as a child of God are all very important in gaining emotional health. You may also need to seek counseling and sometimes even a medical doctor to make sure you are healthy emotionally and physically so that you can lead well.

We are all in process and hopefully getting better at leading the people entrusted into our care and circle of influence. Make it a priority to work on developing these key qualities, the people you lead will be grateful.

Six Leadership Lessons I’ve Learned During the Pandemic

This has been the most unusual time of my life. I remember Y2K and the big deal about that, the fear it caused, but nothing like today. After 9-11 our country changed, and we now live in a new world because of what happened back then.

Today we are battling a world wide virus that is highly contagious and is not consistent in how it attacks people. That has caused doctors and scientists to constantly adjust and adapt to new information. The amazing thing is that they are learning more and making progress in how to treat this virus. Doctors, Scientists, and businesses are working hard to find solutions. Also businesses and industries have been very innovative and adaptive through this pandemic and have made major improvements in areas of testing, producing protective gear and even manufacturing needed medical equipment.

In church world this has been an interesting time as we have not been able to meet in person for church for months. Again, there has been innovation and creativity that has allowed churches to continue to grow and reach new people, while staying connected with the people already a part of the church. It has forced us to think differently, and it has helped more churches work together to love and serve people. I am actually grateful for this time as it has been a big time of stretching church leaders and helping us get out of our box and into the world.

I believe that many good things will come out of this time of Shutdown and Stay at Home orders. As our country starts to re-open, here are a few leadership lessons I’ve learned during this time that I think will help us moving forward.

  1. Leaders have to make decisions without all the facts. This has always been true, but with the ever changing environment today, leaders are faced with a lot of uncertainty and yet still have to make decisions. Some leaders get paralyzed and don’t make decisions, or defer to others that are considered to be experts. The main responsibility of a leader is to take in as much information and input as possible, and then make a decision that is best for the organization, country, state, family. The ability to discern, ask the right questions, and trust your instincts are leadership skills that help a leader in times like this. Don’t let fear and uncertainty keep you from making decisions and moving forward.
  2. Adaptability and Flexibility are keys characteristics of successful leaders. Today more than ever leaders have to be able to adapt quickly to new information, new ways of doing things and learn as you go. Being adaptable means you are not stuck on only one way of doing something, it means you are always looking for the best way, not your own way. Flexibility is another key. To me this means you can change directions quickly, you are open to learning from anyone, and again looking for the best ways to do things and get things done. Both of these characteristics require a good bit of humility. It also means that you have to be willing to take a risk, admit when you make a mistake, or when something is not working and either stop doing it, or change it. Our world is going to keep moving at a high rate of speed and leaders that are adaptable and flexible will be able to keep up.
  3. A crisis shows the emotional intelligence of a leader. Most people know that emotional intelligence is important for successful leaders. Yet when there is a lot of uncertainty and fear, our emotions can drive decisions. When you are aware of your emotions and can think clearly and calmly in a crisis, you will make better decisions and fewer mistakes. It’s also much easier to be adaptable and flexible when you are healthy emotionally. God gave us all emotions for a reason and the more aware you are of your emotions the healthier you can become.
  4. Leaders will always be criticized. Again, this has always been true, but it more evident in difficult challenging times. When information is limited and there is a lot of uncertainty, leaders still must make decisions, and will sometimes get it wrong or less than perfect. That’s part of being in the game instead of on the sidelines. There will always be critics, people that push back, question or challenge everything. Many of those people are not in positions of leadership, or if they are they are, they are low on influence because they take pot shots at others after the fact. Leaders have to be able to take criticism and know when to respond and when not to respond. That takes wisdom and discernment.
  5. Faith in God really makes a difference. Leaders with a healthy relationship with God, lead and make decisions much differently than leaders without faith. That God factor changes the perspective of the leader, and allows the leader to tap into the all powerful creator of everything. For me the most important lesson we can learn in this time is that God is in control, He has a plan, and He is always with us and for us. The deeper we go with God the more powerful and influential our lives become.
  6. Times like this are always preparing us for what is next. God uses times like this to prepare us for the things that are coming. He also uses things like a pandemic to help us see more clearly what is most important in life. It can reset our priorities and help us make the proper adjustments in our lives, organizations and countries. It also reveals our weaknesses and past mistakes, and forces us to address those mistakes or go backwards.

I know there are so many more lessons to be learned. The key is that we are actually learning and not just going through the motions and reacting as we go. Now is the time to be learning and growing. Now is the time to be adjusting and rethinking. Now is the time to be changing and fine tuning. Focus on what you can control and put the work in there, it will make a huge difference down the road.

Thoughts on Character

Character cannot be developed through good resolutions and checklists.  It usually requires a lot of hard work, a little pain and years of faithfulness before any virtues are consistently noticeable in us.  Some people want to develop character quickly, but that does not work. When we move fast we often stumble and fall and only learn and change when the pain is too much for us.  That is why you cannot teach someone to be ethical. You can give them guidelines and ideas, but people tend to do what they know, and if you don’t know Jesus Christ and His teaching it is difficult to always be ethical.

What is character?

Character is the inward motivation to do what is right according to the highest standards of behavior in every situation.

Character consists of the stable and distinctive qualities built into an individual’s life which determine his or her responses, regardless of the circumstances.

Character is the wise response to the pressure of a difficult situation and what we do when we think that no one is watching.  It is the predictor of good behavior.

Character is translated in Scripture as “the express image”.  Originally it denoted an engraver or engraving tool. Later it meant the impression itself, usually something engraved, cut in or stamped.  In Hebrews 1:3 Christ is referred to as the “express image” of God.

WHY is character important?

  1. Character reveals the Lord Jesus Christ, since He is the full personification of all good character qualities.
  2. Understanding character explains why things happen to us, because all things work together for good to conform us to the character of Christ.
  3. Knowing precise character qualities gives us the basis for praising the character of God and others.

Character gives you the strength to practice a purposeful life.  It is a choice we make each day. We all have a purpose in life and certain abilities, passion and relationships.  Character gives us strength to make the tough choices in life. 

Basic Needs we all have…

God made us with needs, and God promised to meet those needs.

“And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19

Paul is telling us that God is willing and able to meet all of our needs. It also acknowledges that we all have needs as human beings

Neediness is a characteristic of our God-given identities.

Physical needs:

  • Food
  • Water
  • Sleep
  • Oxygen

Spiritual needs:

  • To experience God’s love
  • To experience God’s forgiveness
  • To experience God’s peace
  • Only God Moments

Here are the Top Ten Relational Needs:

  • Acceptance
  • Affection
  • Appreciation
  • Approval
  • Attention
  • Comfort
  • Encouragement
  • Respect
  • Security
  • Support

These needs are the same for anyone, no matter where your from, no matter how young or old you are.

It’s OK to have needs, it doesn’t mean your weak.  When we understand our needs, it humbles us and builds our character.

Only God and other people can meet our needs.  Why did God create us this way?

  1. Our neediness Encourages us to depend on God and look to him to meet our needs
  2. Our neediness encourages interdependence – We are not robots, we have feelings and emotions and our neediness requires us to have healthy human relationships. We are here to serve one another.
  3. Accepting the reality of our needs helps us to develop a heart filled with compassion for others
  4. Admitting our needs frees us to receive and give care.
  5. Meeting the needs of others expresses care and produces unity in the body of Christ

My question for you is this.  Of the top ten relational needs listed above, which three are most important to you and which three are most important to your spouse or significant person in your life?  If you can figure that out and then communicate clearly to each other about it, your relationship will begin to improve.  You can control whether or not you are meeting these needs with others, you cannot control whether others will meet your needs.  However, if you are loving and serving the other person the likelihood of them meeting your needs goes way up.  If you’re too needy, that pushes everyone away from you.  You have to first meet the needs of others and show that you can do it in a healthy way.

One of the ways we can love and serve other people is by being aware of these basic needs in the people we are loving and serving. When we are able to meet some of these needs in others they feel loved and served.

Scars

It was 1979 and I was 10 years old. I remember telling my mom that I hit double digits! A few days later I was coming home from playing ball at Walnut Creek Ohio. We lived at the bottom of a hill and I was on my bike. It was a sunny beautiful summer day. I was picking up speed and feeling amazing, like a race car driver. As I approached the bottom of the hill I planned to slow down and make the turn. What happened next was a blur, as I hit some loose gravel and turned, I went into an extended slide.

I remember slowly getting up, my pants were ripped at the knee and my leg was throbbing. I somehow got my bike upright and started hobbling toward our house. I remember doing a Jimmy Carter impersonation as I walked, He was President at the time. Using his southern accent, I distracted myself from the pain and thinking about anything but getting home.

I made it inside the house and slowly peeled off my jeans. I nearly passed out when I saw my knee. It was a combination of blood, open flesh, dirt and gravel. Today we call that road rash. I cover myself up and laid on the couch and waited for mom to get home. She was working and my two brothers were not home. I laid there talking like Jimmy Carter and thinking about things like baseball, fishing and my bike.

When mom got home she knew right away something was wrong. After listening to my version of what happened and examining my knee she called my Grandma. I could hear her on the phone asking what she thinks we should do. “Should I take him to the emergency room” mom asked?
Grandma was small but very tough, she grew up on a farm and had raised 5 kids on a farm. Grandma did not hesitate in her reply. “Oh it’s just a knee he will be fine”. So my mom hung up the phone and put a patch on my my knee and said it would be fine.

A few days later it was not fine. An infection had started and my mom knew I needed to see a doctor. She took me in and the doctor cleaned up the wound as best he could. He said it was too late for stitches so he patched me up and told us to change the bandages every day. He told us my knee would be OK but I will have a good sized scar the rest of my life. I remember seeing all kinds on dirt and gunk every time we changed the bandage. The salve we put on the wound drew out the dirt and infection over time and it eventually healed.

I still have that scar, and every time I see it I go back to that day on my bike and the scene I just described. We all have scars, some physical like mine but some emotional from hurts and trauma’s we had in our past. Every time we see that scar it take us back to that moment when we got hurt, abused, rejected or assaulted.

The physical scar on my knee has made my knee numb in that area, I remember years later I could take a pin and push it into the scar and not feel it. It’s the same for emotional scars. It numbs us to the pain, but there is still damage that was done. If you have some emotional scars, they won’t go away unless you work through it. There can be an infection under that scar. This often requires the help of skilled people to help you navigate the right way to do that.

I also believe we must involve God in this as well. Everything has a spiritual element to it, including our pain and hurts. Our attitude can’t be it’s just a knee or it’s just my emotions. God is involved in every part of our lives, especially the inner parts. That’s where He does his best work.

When we experience a trauma in our life the sooner we talk about it, admit our hurt and feelings and work through things like forgiveness, the sooner real healing can happen and the scar becomes smaller or can even completely heal and disappear.

If I would have gotten stitches right away, I would not have this scar today. But if we wouldn’t have taken care of the infection I could have lost my leg. Even years after a physical or emotional trauma you can experience emotional healing. Don’t wait, go get help, turn to God, forgive those that hurt you.

A great place to start is by talking to God about it. Sharing all the emotions with him and asking for help, healing and comfort. Then take the step to talk to a person, a counselor, a trusted mentor, or a pastor. It might be hard, but it will make you a better, stronger person. God loves you and cares about every part of your life, even the scars.

Worry vs. Prayer

Big Point:  Worry is focused negative thinking, while prayer is focused spiritual thinking.

About 19 million Americans suffer from anxiety disorders, but far more suffer from mild anxiety or worry that has not yet developed into a disorder.  For many people today, worry has simply become a mental habit. Automatically thinking the worse case scenario for the events that happen in their lives.  It’s also playing the “what if” possibilities over & over in their minds.

This has become the normal for many people, however there is a better way and a better normal.  This way leads to less stress, more peace and better health. Philippians 4:6-7 gives us the better way “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand.  His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”

So, prayer is the better way.  Pray should be our normal response to anything that comes our way.  Pausing to talk to God, ask for his help, for wisdom, for courage, for patience.  Expressing our frustrations, fears and doubts to him instead of having a negative conversation with ourselves leads to peace.  It also leads to better health both physically and emotionally.

Read and Reflect:  Read these passages of Scripture several times.  Each time you read it emphasize a different word.  Then reflect and think about what you noticed.

  • Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.” 1 Peter 5:7
  • “So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” James 4:7
  • “But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world.” 1 John 4:4
  • “And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find.  Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.” Luke 11:9
  • “But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles.  They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31

Questions to Consider:

  • What do you tend to worry about the most?
  • What benefits would you gain by praying more instead of worrying?
  • What is one thing you could do to remind yourself to pray more throughout your day?
  • When was the last time you memorized a passage of Scripture?  If it’s been awhile consider memorizing one of the verses in this devotional.

What’s Next?

  • Memorize one or more passages of Scripture this week.
  • Focus on Jesus by reading the story found in Luke 10:38-42
  • Make a list of all the things that you are grateful for
  • Build prayer into your daily schedule, with reminders until it becomes normal.

Pray:
Dear Lord,
I need you now because I am full of stress and anxiety. Reading your Word brings comfort, as I ask you to come and take my heavy burdens. I take each burden, one by one, and lay them at your feet. Please carry them for me so that I don’t have to. Replace them with your humble and gentle spirit so that I will find rest for my soul today. I receive your gift of peace of mind and heart. Thank you that I can lie down tonight in peace and sleep. I know that you, Lord, will keep me safe. I am not afraid because you are always with me. Please keep me daily, Lord, in your perfect peace.
Amen.

Leading During a Crisis

Photo by Dylan Gillis on Unsplash

Our world is in the midst of a crisis know at the Coronavirus of COVID-19. It is spreading all over the world and things are changing rapidly. Leaders at all level of government, medical, education, business, non-profits and churches are making important decisions everyday.

During a crisis like this, how can we lead well? Many decisions that leaders make are questioned, scrutinized and criticized. However, thats what it means to be a leader. Leaders make decisions and get things done. Here are a few things we can all do in order to lead well during a crisis.

PRAY AND SEEK WISE COUNSEL: Go to God first in any crisis. Talk to God and read His Word. It’s also important to know who you can go too for counsel and support. Surrounding yourself with the right team is vital in a crisis. You must trust each other and believe the best about each other.

PLAN TO COMMUNICATE: During a crisis, communication is critical. Even if you do not have new information it is important to communicate as much as possible and allow a space for people to ask questions. People tend to panic more if they feel like they are in the dark or that their leaders are not sharing all the information. It is better to over communicate.

TAKE RESPONSIBILITY: Blaming others or pointing fingers does not help. Leaders should take responsibility for the current reality and focus on solving problems and finding solutions. It’s also important to quickly admit when you or your team got something wrong or made a bad decision. Admit it and move forward.

MAKE NECESSARY SACRIFICES: A leader must be willing to make sacrifices for the betterment and protection of their people. There may be personal sacrifices or organizational sacrifices in order to do what is right and responsible. Short term sacrifices can lead to long term success.

ACT DECISIVELY: It’s important to make decisions as quickly as you can. There is a tension between getting information and making a decision. You can’t always wait until all the facts are known. You have to do the best you can with what you have. Keep the big picture in mind and do what’s best for the people and your organization.

TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF: When stress is running high it is so important that leaders take care of themselves. Plan for down time, rest and eating properly. Get some exercise and take some time for you family. When you do that, you will be sharper and better able to function in the crisis.

SEE THE OPPORTUNITIES: There is always an opportunity in every crisis. Look for the positive, look for things that can be improved, streamlined or eliminated. What lessons can be learned as you go through the crisis that will make you stronger and better in the future.

Thank you to all the people that are out there leading well. Keep going, don’t give up, you are making a difference.

Why Are We So Afraid?

It seems these days that many people are living in fear. Fear and anxiety are a common every day occurrence for people. We fear the economy getting bad, we fear losing our jobs, we fear something happening to our children, we fear getting sick or being infected with the Corona Virus. We fear people we don’t know, we fear the other political party, we fear being rejected, failing, being misunderstood. I could keep going.

Why are you so afraid? Jesus spoke those words to his followers after he calmed a storm. It’s a question he is still asking all of us. Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?

Here is what was happening at that time. Jesus had been building his ministry and was attracting many people. He had just spent most of the previous days teaching the people gathered about the Kingdom of God.

So after a day of teaching and then explaining the teaching in simple terms to his disciples, he said to his disciples “Let’s go over the other side.” So off they go to cross the Sea of Galilee. This sea is known for having violent and unexpected storms. When the storm hit, these seasoned fishermen panicked, thinking the storm was going to sink the boats and they would drown. As this storm began, Jesus was sleeping. He was tired from a long day of teaching. They finally woke him up and said; don’t you care if we drown and die!

Does any of this sound familiar? Our lives are full of unexpected violent storms. Things happen that are completely out of our control. It often feels like Jesus is sleeping and does not care that we are in this storm. We feel like we need to cry out and wake him up. We want him to keep us safe and take the storm away.

The disciples knew who Jesus was, they believed what he was teaching them, yet they underestimated his power. They did not fully trust that he would not let them die. We are the same way, we believe in God and may even have read and studied what he has to teach us; yet we don’t always fully trust him with the storms that come up in our lives.

What did Jesus do? Jesus stood up and commanded the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be Still!” Then the wind stopped, and it became completely calm. That’s Jesus! He’s in control, He is all powerful, He loves us.

Think about the storms in your life, the situations that cause you great anxiety. Whatever your difficulty or challenge, you have two options:

  • You can worry and stress and assume that Jesus no longer cares like the disciples did.
  • Or, you can resist that fear, and trust that God is in control and He will guide you through the storm or calm the storm.

We too often try to take control of the ship and fix things on our own. When we do that and exclude God, he patiently waits for us to come to him and trust him, to put our faith in him.

Here are two lessons we learn in life’s storms:

  • You and I must trust what God has told us. He has promised to never leave us or forsake us.
  • You and I must remind ourselves who’s in the boat with us. When God permits us to go through a life storm, it’s usually to show us that there is no problem he can’t solve. There is no storm that is too big for him.

Traveling through these storms with Jesus in our boat strengthens our faith, develops our character and deepens our relationship with him. That only happens when we completely trust him no matter what comes our way. Even when we don’t understand why something is happening, God wants us to trust him and not be afraid. When we try to lean on our own understanding we will fall down and miss what God has for us.

Proverbs 3:5-6 say “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”

Leaning means putting our full weight on him, resting on him without fear of falling. God knows what is best for us, because he has a much bigger perspective than we do.

If you are in the middle of a life storm, know that Jesus is in the boat with you, or you can invite him into your boat. Once there, he will never leave you, he will stick with you through the most violent storms imaginable. Lean on him when you don’t know what your next move should be. Trust God completely, he might not make the storm go away, but he will not let you drown.

Generosity is …

Generosity is a quality that most people want to be around. It can be inspiring and heart warming to see genuine generosity. However, generosity is a heart issue, it’s what is happening in our heart that causes us to be generous.

Paul wrote most of the New Testament and he talks a good bit about generosity. in 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 he unpacks some amazing truths about what generosity is. Take a moment and reflect on these 11 truths and then ask yourself how generous you are? Where do you need to grow?

  1. Generosity is unrelated to income and wealth – You can be generous no matter what your economic status.

Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. 8:2

2. Generosity is never forced – it’s a choice we make everyday.

For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own. 8:3 

3. Generosity cannot be contained! – When we are transformed to see as God sees, and care as God cares, we understand the honor we have in giving. Giving is contagious.

And they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. 8:4 

4. Generosity is always focused first toward the Lord – When we give ourselves to the Lord, our hearts turn from selfish to generous.

And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God’s will. 8:5 

5. Generosity is tangible evidence of our love for God – It is outward evidence of the inner change happening in us.

I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. 8:8 

6. Generous people meet needs – God helps us to notice the needs around us and gives us the discernment to know how to best help those in need.

At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need . . . “[He] who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little.” 8:14-15

7. Generosity honors the Lord – It is an act of worship and brings glory to God.

What is more, he was chosen by the churches to accompany us as we carry the offering, which we administer in order to honor the Lord himself and to show our eagerness to help. 8:19 

8. Real generosity is expressed cheerfully – It’s a joy to give. When we give we are a blessing to others and when we give we are blessed ourselves.

Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 9:7

9. Generosity is personal between us and God – It’s a personal choice to give, we should always pray about our giving and make plans to give.

Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 9:7 

10. God provides the gift for the generous to give – God owns it all and supplies it all.

Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous . . . 9:10–11 

11. Expressed generosity moves others closer to God – Our giving impacts people in ways only God really sees.

So that you can be generous…and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. 12 This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. 13 Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity . . . 9:11–13