How Bold Are You?

“Our difficulties and dangers will not be removed by closing our eyes to them.”  Winston Churchill

I recently watched the movie Darkest Hour the story about Winston Churchill.  It tells the story of the beginning of World War 2 and how Churchill rose to leadership and how he provided leadership at that critical time in history.

I also have recently read the story of Patrick Henry and his part in moving our country to become independent and free.

Both of those men had a character quality that helped them to lead in critical, difficult times.  It was boldness.  The definition of boldness is “Confidence and courage to do what is right regardless of the circumstances or others’ opinions.”

Winston Churchill was willing to take great risks and even fail because he believed he was doing what was right and best for his country.  Many people around him criticized and questioned most of his decisions, yet he continued to stay the course and boldly stand firm.  There were moments of questioning himself and dealing with fear directly.  However, he did not allow the fear to paralyze him, he talked to different people to get new perspectives when his inner circle began to crumble.

Patrick Henry also showed great boldness as one of the first people to openly speak out against England and the oppression they were imposing on the colonies.  His steadfast boldness encouraged many others to also stand firm in the face of fear.

Here are some key lessons we can learn from Winston Churchill and Patrick Henry about boldness:

  1. Boldness helps you communicate your message more effectively – Appropriate boldness brings power to your message.  Sharing your message with confidence and passion gets peoples attention.  Bold people speak up when asked to give their opinion, because they have thought deeply about the issue at hand and are clear about what is right and best for the organization or country.  Even if they are not completely clear on how to gt there, they are willing to take risks to make progress and get the right things done.
  2. Boldness will improve your relationships – People that are not afraid to have the hard conversations in life have some of the healthiest relationships.  They keep short accounts and resolve issues.  Other people like being around people that are confident and value living and influencing over simply existing and staying in their comfort zones.  Appropriate boldness requires having composure and intentionally working on relationships before they get worse.
  3. Bold people are often criticized – If you are bold and passionate about something you will most likely get criticized and even ridiculed.  True boldness gets you through those low times of rejection and failure.  You are not a great leader if you have never been criticized, questioned and ridiculed.  Boldness keeps you pressing forward.
  4. Boldness takes a positive outlook on life – Bold people think positive and believe the best.  Nothing kills boldness faster than a pessimistic outlook or negative thinking.  If you focus on what could go wrong your boldness dwindles but when you focus on what can go right your boldness grows.
  5. God raises up and uses bold people – When you have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ you have access to incredible power.  God’s spirit lives in you and empowers you to be bold for Him.  The stronger your faith in God grows the bolder you become.  2 Timothy 1:7 says “For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, and of love and of sound judgement.”

When a person is not bold they often miss opportunities to influence and make a difference.  Of course you can be bold for wrong reasons and sometimes people will be more of a bully than a bold person.  Character matters when it comes to being bold.  Sometimes the most bold thing you can do is not fight back but forgive and love.  Stand up for what is right and good and protect the weak and oppressed.  Be bold about things that make the world a better place and serve other people, that’s appropriate boldness.

Next Step:

Boldness is one of 48 principles that Lodestar Guidance teaches.  Each principle has a short video and a bulletin that walks you through the keys to improving that quality in your life.  It’s a great way to build a culture that is healthy and thriving.  If you would like more information about Lodestar or leadership development email me at



How’s Your Health?

How healthy are you?  Most people would answer that question by talking about their physical health.  We start talking about aches and pains and our weight.  We talk about needing to exercise more and eat better and maybe go see the doctor.

But we don’t often think about our emotional health or our spiritual health or our relational health.  When I think about being healthy I think about mind, body and soul.  If those three are not healthy we are in trouble.  When one is not healthy it can affect the others.

I believe the most important part of us is our spiritual side, our souls.  That is our true self.  Taking care of our souls should be a high priority.

Our spiritual health is critical.  Too often we try to get well after we are sick spiritually instead of avoiding getting sick in the first place.

One soul renewal discipline is to set SOUL GOALS. 

You need to have a plan for spiritual growth to avoid doing life in a dull spiritual trance.  Not many people take the time to write out goals for their lives let alone goals for their souls.  To me our soul goals should come before any other goals.  Being a Christian is not an academic exercise, it is a relationship.  In any relationship we must put the hard work in if we want it to be successful.  A good marriage doesn’t just happen, great friendships take work and being intentional about getting to know each other.  Isaiah 55:8 says “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.”

We need to get to know God better, and setting soul goals can help you do just that.  If you are not intentional about growing closer to God you will plateau and not experience all that He has for you.

Here are a few examples of soul goals:

  1. I want to practice Heaven by enjoying now – celebrate the little things in life by starting a grateful journal.
  2. I want to have a part in advancing God’s Kingdom – not hinder it.  Where can I serve?
  3. I want to grow in grace in my relationships – a soft heart, compassion and love for people.  What are two things I can do to improve my relationships?
  4. I want to laugh more – my life is in His hands.  Find ways to have fun and enjoy life.  Schedule fun.
  5. I want to remain open to God’s changes in my life – His way, not my way.  This is surrendering to Him and trusting Him with every part of your life.  What do I need to surrender to God?
  6. I want to live less like a victim and more like a victor – A broken bone will heal stronger than before. Am I using the trials of life to shape my ministry?  God often used the most painful experiences in our life to shape us for ministry and use that pain to help others.  How can I use my painful experiences to help others?  Look for opportunities to do that.
  7. I want to excel in prayer.  I need to plan a time of prayer and then have a prayer mindset throughout each day.
  8. I want to be a more giving person – time, money, talent.  I need to start tithing and serving.  When will I start?

Another spiritual renewal discipline is PRAYER.

To have healthy souls, we must pour out our souls in prayer, both secretly, and in public.   Prayer connects us with God; it is a gift we are given because of Jesus.  We are each priests, working for God and able to communicate directly with Him.  Therefore we need to take advantage of this great gift.

Prayer should be a part of our everyday activities, throughout the day we should be in constant connection to God.  Just as if He was right beside you each and every moment of each day.  “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.”  Colossians 4:2

Prayer is an opportunity to Praise God – to express your love for Him

Also to find your purpose in life – what He has for you.

It also is a way to ask for our needs to be met and for confession of sin.

Prayer is a time to intercede for other people and to ask for protection.

John Wesley was a man of prayer, the busier his life became the more time he spent in prayer.  Today many of us are exactly the opposite.  The busier we get the less we pray.  No wonder our lives are filled with stress and anxiety.  Prayer is vital to a healthy soul.  “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”  Philippians 4:6

A few closing thoughts on prayer:

We need a time and a place to pray.  A regular time is essential.  We still need to pray throughout the day, but we need a special time each day to really connect with God.  Give Him your best time each day, whether that is in the morning, afternoon or evening.  Prayer requires a certain level of preparation.  The pace of our lives causes our minds to race at fast levels.  We have noise all around us that distracts us from our communication with God.  Our thoughts are sort of like a bunch of monkeys jumping around on a banana tree.  So when you begin your prayer time you need to be at your best and let the monkeys settle down.  Take a few deep breathes and allow your mind to slow down and focus on God.

We also need to keep our prayers simple.  There is a gap between what I am supposed to pray for and what is really on my mind.  Simple prayer means praying about what is on your heart, not what you think God wants to hear.  In the movie Bruce Almighty, God asks Bruce to pray and he prays for God to feed the hungry and for world peace.  Too often that is the extent of our prayers and it never comes from our hearts.

Tell God about how frustrated you are at work, or how your neighbor made you mad.  Be real with God.  Nothing kills prayer faster than when we pretend before God.  Prayer like any relationship has to begin in honesty and grow.

Another thing that has helped me tremendously in my prayer life is to be fully present.  I don’t know about you, but my mind wonders when I pray.  I thought this would stop as I grew spiritually, but it did not.    I used to feel guilty about this until I learned what it means to be fully present.

If your mind keeps returning to a particular topic or person, it is probably an indication that this is the topic or person of most concern to you, and you need stop and talk to God about it.

Sometimes my agenda for the day keeps coming to my mind, so I stop and pray for the things on my calendar, meetings, projects and people.  Or maybe I keep thinking about a person or persons, so I stop and pray for that person and what is going on in their lives.

If you approach these thoughts as stepping stones rather than barriers to prayer you will be fully present with God.  There are times that thoughts can be a distraction though and that may mean you need to keep a notebook close by to write down the thought or the thing you need to do, so you can get back with God and really connect with Him.

So set some soul goals and make sure prayer is a regular part of your life.

A Key to Success

norway-travelnews-amundsenI’d like to share a story with you about two explorers:

Explorers Roald Amundsen and Robert Falcon Scott competed to be the first to lead their teamon an expedition to the South Pole in October 1911. The 1400 mile trip was challenging, and temperatures often reached 20 degrees below zero even during the summer. The terrain was uncertain and unforgiving. The modern communication we rely upon was non-existent. If things went badly, rescue was very unlikely. Amundsen led his explorers to safety and victory, but Scott’s expedition led to defeat. The difference in the leaders’ expeditions was wisdom.

Amundsen spent years rigorously preparing for the journey. He learned how to handle polar conditions, and he lived with Eskimos to learn how they survived, what they wore, and how they moved. He studied every possible scenario. Amundsen designed the entire journey to reduce the likelihood of chance events. He carried enough extra supplies to be able to miss every single supply depot and still go another 100 miles, but Scott risked running low on supplies. Amundsen stored three tons of supplies for five men; Scott had only one ton for 17 men. Amundsen brought four thermometers, but Scott brought only one. Amundsen used sled dogs, based on the wisdom of the Eskimos. Scott used unproven motor sledges and ponies. The sleds failed, and the ponies died. Amundsen was famous for his “20 Mile March” wisdom, having a set distance the team had to travel daily no matter the circumstances. Scott let the weather determine when his team moved. Amundsen trained his body and mind with rigorous discipline, but Scott’s preparation was limited. He made plans based on his own intuition and opinions, not on direct research of the environment he was entering.

On December 15, 1911, Amundsen and his team reached the South Pole. They planted the flag and went right back to work. They reached home base on January 25th, the exact day he planned. Eight months later, a British reconnaissance party found the frozen bodies of Scott and his last two teammates in a snow covered tent just eleven miles short of his supply station. The entire team had perished. Scott’s lack of wisdom led to defeat.

There was a pretty big difference between the two explorers right.  Amundsen was much better prepared for the journey than Scott.  Why was he more prepared?

  1. He spent years preparing himself and his team – Always remember that to take on something important, something big we have to prepare for it. We have to practice and work on our skills.  So whatever we want to do in life start preparing now.  We are always preparing for something, when we stop growing and preparing we often miss opportunities or make critical mistakes and failures.
  2. He also learned as much as he could about the South Pole – This is a reminder for all of us to always keep learning and growing. The most successful people in life are the ones that are life-long learners.  So just because you are out of school doesn’t mean you stop learning.  Keep reading books, keep studying things you are interested in.  Keep stretching yourself.  There is always something new to learn.
  3. He planned for chance events – He knew that there were lots of things out of his control, like the weather. He had to be flexible when things went wrong.  No matter how much you plan there are always things that can go wrong.  Life has lots of ups and downs, so we need to prepare for those things by making wise decisions and having some backup plans.  Amundson packed extra supplies and took more than he needed in case things did not go as planned.  In life things often do not go as planned, so prepare to be flexible.
  4. He talked to people that knew more than he did, the Eskimos – We can also learn a lot from other people that have gone before us that are older or more experienced than us. Ask questions and learn from people that have been doing the things we want to do.  Where I work at a church we go to other churches that are bigger than us, more experienced than us and ask them questions and try to learn what is working for them.
  5. He had a system and was disciplined – he planned to go 20 miles every day no matter what. He learned what worked then he stuck with it and followed the plan.  Self-discipline is important because we often have to do things we don’t enjoy.  To accomplish good things in life we need to work hard, stay focused and stick with it.
  6. Amundson used wisdom to succeed – Wisdom is accurately applying knowledge and clear judgement to life situations

The Bible has a lot to say about wisdom.  King Solomon – wrote most of the book of Proverbs.  That’s a great place to start in seeking wisdom.  If you haven’t read Proverbs start today.  Make is a practice to read through the 31 chapters of Proverbs a couple of times a year.


Daily Creed

A couple of weeks ago I did a funeral for a 95 year old woman.  The family gave me her Bible to look through as I prepared for the service.  I’d like to share one of the things that I found.

She wrote this on a piece of paper:

My Daily Creed:

  1. I believe God’s promises are true
  2. I believe heaven is real
  3. I believe nothing can separate me from God’s love
  4. I believe God has work for me to do
  5. I believe God will see me through and carry me when I cannot walk

I love that I and I now have that hanging in my office.  So what do you believe?

Lessons Learned This Past Year



As we approach the end of another year I can’t help but reflect on this past year.  It was filled with good times, bad times, positive emotions and negative emotions.  I cried and I laughed.  I opened up and I shut down.  I made some good decisions and I made some bad decisions.  I got angry and had a negative attitude and I was filled with joy and had a positive attitude.  I also learned a lot this past year about leadership, my relationship with God and the baggage that I still tend to carry.

If you’re like me this can describe almost every year.  However every year I like to ask myself if I have grown in my faith, character and leadership in this past year.  For me it’s a big yes this year.  Probably more than many other years because of the amount of change I experienced at work.  Here are some of the lessons I learned or went deeper in understanding.

  1. God opposed the proud but supports the humble – Every time I allow pride to creep into my life I get knocked down a few notches.  This often happens to me when things are going well and I start comparing myself to others.  It can happen when I’m meeting with someone that is going through a hardship and I think I can fix it with three simple steps.  Or when I don’t think a certain strategy or decision is the best and my way is better.  Or if I don’t pay attention to my wife and just do what I want.  I keep learning and understanding more deeply to humble myself and in due time the Lord will lift me up, but it’s his decision not mine.  I need to remain faithful, work hard and focus on doing what is right and good and submit to God and other people.
  2. Value your relationships because life can change in an instant – I was reminded through several tragic events that life is precious and things can change very quickly.  I was reminded to spend time with the people I love and to work on those relationship by practicing forgiveness, communicating clearly and often and by loving well.  The Bible says to love extravagantly and that we are bankrupt without love.  Learning to love or how to express love is one of the best things we can do to improve our lives and value the people around us.
  3. Having the hard conversations is a game changer – Conflict is not fun and many people tend to avoid it.  However if you want to grow, make progress, change for the better or have less stress, then you must deal directly with conflict.  Learning to admit when your wrong and confronting issues quickly when they come up does not allow things to fester and get infected.  I had many hard conversations this past year and most of them ended well and improved the relationship or the situation.  Resolving conflict is hard but it leads to relational, emotional and physical health.
  4. Vulnerability and openness are strengths not weakness – I studied and read a lot about vulnerability, shame and courage this past year.  It takes great courage to be vulnerable and be honest, but when you do it, you experience great freedom, creativity and strength.  I became more vulnerable in some of my relationships and took some risks by sharing more of me with others.  I grew in confidence and courage by facing the junk in my life head on and sharing that with some trusted people in my life.  Everyone knows your not perfect so stop trying to be, take off the mask and be real, that’s when things start to change.
  5. Emotional health is one of the most import things a leader can have – Being healthy emotionally allows you to lead at a high level and take on enormous responsibility.  However staying healthy emotionally takes constant work just like staying physically healthy takes constant work.  Caring for your soul and understanding your emotions is a sign of maturity and leadership.  Sometimes you have to go to a professional counselor in order to break through some of the emotional walls that come up in your life.  It’s always worth the time and energy and money to get healthy emotionally.
  6. When you keep God first and submit to Him other things fall into place – My relationship with God has grown and deepened over the years, but this did not just happen, I had to be intentional.  I have found that the more time I spend with God the more I can accomplish, the healthier I am and and the lower my stress tends to be.  Having a spiritual rhythm in life is vital.  What I mean by rhythm is having a thriving prayer life, feeding on God’s word regularly, being silent and being with God and living a life of worship.  That is staying focused on the most important thing in life, your relationship with Jesus Christ.  When that is growing the rest of life tends to be healthier as well.

Keep growing in Faith, Character and Leadership.

A Key to Stronger Relationships


I’ve been studying the idea of vulnerability and how that plays out in our relationships.   Brene Brown has some incredible insights on this tough topic.  Much of this post is based on her research.

One of the things that keeps us from being vulnerable is shame.  Shame thrives in secrecy, silence and judgement.  However when we introduce empathy, shame cannot grow.  So in order to be open and vulnerable we need to be around people that are great at empathizing and we need to learn how to be empathetic with others.  Learning how to be empathetic is one of the most powerful ways to improve your relationships.

In order to be empathetic we need to be able to see the world as others see it.  This is all about perspective, being able to take the perspective of another person and not our own.  It’s being able to listen to someone and not interject our own experience but to really what to hear it from them.  It’s not one upping the person by sharing what you did or how you messed up.  It’s being able to realize that our lens of life and our experiences are different than others and being OK with that.

Empathy also requires that we are nonjudgmental.   Most of us are  judgmental and we are usually judgmental in areas where we are vulnerable to shame.  We tend to judge people that are worse than we are so that we feel better about ourselves.  We do that because we are looking for validation that at least I’m not as bad as so and so.

Empathy is not our default or natural mode, it’s a skill that must be worked on and developed in order for this to happen naturally.  Empathy is usually very subtle, it can be just a knowing look or going to be with someone in a time of crisis instead of calling to express sympathy.

When we empathize with someone, we go to that dark place with them, we don’t flip on the lights and try to cheer them up and fix the problem or make light of the situation.  It’s like walking up to your friend that is in a hole and going down into the hole with them, but knowing how to get back out of the hole because it’s not your hole.  Sympathy is walking up to the hole and asking what happened.  When they tell you, you express that your sorry to hear that, that’s a terrible thing.  Let me know if there is anything I can do to help.  There is a big difference.

When we empathize with someone, we are creating a safe environment for people to be vulnerable.  Being vulnerable is one of the most accurate measures of a persons courage.  To be vulnerable takes bravery, because it is walking into uncertainty, it’s taking a risk and it’s exposing your emotions.  It takes courage because the reality is you can get hurt when you do this with someone that is not able to empathize or keep things confidential.

However if you live in secrecy, and silence you might feel safe, but are most likely miserable.  When we are vulnerable we are our true self.  We are showing that we are imperfect, messed up, awkward and goofy.  The greatest relationships are the ones where you can be all  of that and the person loves you even more.

So if your looking to improve your relationships, first learn how to empathize better with the people around you. Work on those skills of listening and trying to understand their perspective.  Don’t try to fix them or the situation, but let them know we can do this together.  Then work at being vulnerable with the people in your life.  Expose yourself emotionally by being honest about your struggles and your shame.  When we do that there is incredible freedom and life when we push past our fear.


Leadership Development



Today I spoke at a workshop about leadership development and mentoring.  It was a great experience because I was talking about something that I am passionate about.  about 15 years ago I went through a time of searching for meaning in my life.  I turned to God and went deeper in my faith.  At the time I started asking myself what kind of person do I want to be remembered for.  I started praying and questioning myself.  After a long process I came up with a personal mission statement for my life:  Growing myself and others in Faith, Character and Leadership.  Those three areas of my life have been the main focus for me over the last 15 years.  It has helped to keep me focused on the right things and to say no to the things that distract me from those three areas of my life.

Here are the things I shared with the group today at the Equip2Serve conference in Canton Ohio at Malone University.

Leading yourself is always the hardest thing to do.  We spend more time with ourselves than anyone else, yet most of us don’t take the time to be intentional about our own development.  Here are some practical things you can do to work on yourself.

  1. Develop a Personal Growth Plan or Life Plan This is a powerful exercise that can transform your life.  To think about the highest priority areas of your life like, Faith, Family, Marriage, Finances, Health, Work.  Then to go beyond just thinking to actually developing a vision for each of those areas and then setting specific goals to help you get closer to that vision.  The last step is to put those goals on your calendar and actually do the things you wrote down.
  2. Get Accountable – It’s good to do a life plan and set goals for your life, it’s another to share those goals with trusted people in your life and ask them to hold you accountable.  It’s also important for your character to have some accountability in your life.  Confessing to God and talking to him about our issues is one thing, but it’s a whole new level if you can confess to a trusted friend and ask them to ask you about it every week.  Accountability only is effective if you are completely honest and trustworthy.  Start praying right now for a few people that you can trust enough to share every area of your life, and talk about the dark things in your life.
  3. Ease up on Yourself – Don’t take yourself so seriously.  Don’t be so hard on yourself.  We can be our own worst enemy sometimes by thinking negatively about ourselves and putting ourselves down.  It’s OK to put pressure on yourself, but not to the point where you feel defeated or depressed.  It’s important to remember that God made you, He loves you and He believes in you.
  4. Plan some Solitude Time –  This won’t happen on it’s own so you need to get it on your calendar.  Block off some time and take a personal retreat.  You might need to take a vacation day to do this but it will be worth it.  Solitude means getting away from the people and things that distract us from connecting with God.  This is necessary mainly for your emotional and spiritual health.  Solitude allows you to have God moments where you connect with Him in ways you could never experience when your running your normal life pace.
  5. Take a Risk – This is huge in leading yourself.  When you take a risk and push through the fear that holds you back there is great freedom on the other side of that.  The danger in self-leadership is that we become content with who we are and don’t push beyond what we think is possible.  IN what area of your life do you need to take a risk?

Leading yourself is not easy and will be something you have to do the rest of your life.  We never arrive and get it all figured out.  Once we make one break through in life there is always another obstacle and other opportunities that will come up.  Make sure your carving out time to lead and develop yourself.  The more time you spend on yourself, the more you can pour into others.

Hard Leadership


Leadership is one of the hardest things you’ll ever do.  It is also one of the most rewarding things you can do.  Whether your leading your children, your family, your department, your company or your team, leadership can be challenging.

Leadership is hard because if you want to lead well it takes time, energy, intentionality and confidence.  To lead well a person has to constantly be thinking ahead and also dealing with the present reality.  The ability to influence others in a positive way starts with the way a person leads themselves.

Leading yourself is probably the most challenging part of leadership.  You know yourself better than anyone and so you tend to be harder on yourself than on others.  You can also talk yourself into things that are not good for you and justify bad behavior.  Unless you have some accountability in your life leading yourself can be a loosing battle.

So here are some tips on how to lead yourself better, so that you can lead others better:

  1. Develop a Personal Growth Plan or Life Plan – This is a powerful exercise that should be done once a year and then followed throughout the year.  Pick the important large areas of your life like; Faith, Family, Marriage, Finances, Work, Health.  Once you’ve settled on 3-5 main areas then write a one paragraph description of what you want that area of your life to be like.  Once you’ve done that, set 3-5 specific goals that can help you move closer to that ideal that you just described.  Once you have that done then transfer those goals to your to-do list or calendar so that you start working on it.
  2. Get Accountable – It’s on thing to set some goals and work on achieving those things, it’s another to share those goals with someone else and ask them to hold you accountable.  Accountability only works if you are honest and completely open.  It also takes a person that cares about you and that can be trusted to hold you accountable and ask the tough questions.  If you have that kind of relationship or relationships in your life it can accelerate your growth and development.  If you don’t have that start working on developing that kind of a relationship with someone.
  3. Ease up – What I mean by that is it’s important to ease up on yourself and not be too negative about yourself.  We can be our own worst enemy when it comes to change or personal growth.  Cut yourself some slack and look for the positive things that your doing and don’t always focus on the negative.  It’s OK to put pressure on yourself, but be careful it’s not too much.
  4. Take a Risk – This is huge when leading yourself.  When you take a risk and try something new or push yourself to do something in spite of your fears, real growth happens.  The danger in self-leadership is to get comfortable and not push yourself to get better.  When that happens your influence with others will start to go down.  If your not stretching and growing you can’t ask others to stretch and grow.

Leadership is hard and rewarding.  It’s either increasing or decreasing and you decide which direction it’s going.

Spiritual Fitness



Race (12)Recently I ran races on back to back weekends.  First it was a race called Rough & Rugged which was a 5k cross country, trail, mud kind of race.  I finished but was exhausted and struggled along the way.  Then the next weekend I ran a 10k on a flat course.  Again I finished but struggled and had to reach deep to keep pushing myself. After I finished that second race I made the comment that these races are much harder when you don’t train properly.

You see I had been running once a twice a week in preparation for both of these races.  I also did nothing between the two races and I felt it on race day.  I know this because at one time I did train hard and went into similar races in much better physical condition.  I ran better times and felt better after the races.  The preparation I put in made a difference on race day.  I was both mentally and physically ready.  That was not the case with these last two races.

It is similar in our spiritual lives, when we are staying connected to God and feeding our minds the truth, it is much easier to recognize lies and deal with the difficulties of life.  It’s the things we do day in and day out that prepare us for those big moments in life and those small moments that make a big difference.  Those crucial conversations, the big decisions, the temptation that comes out of no where or the unexpected tragedy.  When we are not training spiritually those things can knock us down and take us out.

So here are some spiritual exercises we can all do to keep fit both spiritually and emotionally.

  1. Pray – This is a very powerful way to train.  It has been proven to reduce stress and it’s a great way to express your heart to God.  How incredible to know that the God of this universe wants to listen to what is going on in your life right now.  Short prayers throughout the day or longer prayer times when you able are great ways to stay spiritually fit.  I like to use ACTS when I pray: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication.
  2. Reading the Bible – For some this is a challenge, because they tried it and didn’t understand what they were reading so they gave up.  Keep trying, try a different translation, try listening to it, but keep trying.  the translation I’ve been reading lately is the New Century Version.  I just read through the New Testament in 30 days and am now reading through Psalms in 30 days.  You might not be able to read that much so set a goal that works for you.  Find a time that you can read for 5-10 minutes and try to stay consistent  When you miss a day, just pick it up the next.  Pray before you read and ask God to help you understand and to pick something up that he wants to tell you or teach you.
  3. Go to Church – I know that sounds simple, but unless you make that a priority in your life you will only go when it suits your schedule.  Today many people only go to church once or twice a month.  That’s good but your missing a lot by not going every week.  I know life happens and I don’t expect people to be in church every time there is a service, but it should be high on your priority list if you want to be fit spiritually.  Find a church that challenges you to grow and get involved.  Don’t settle for comfortable, because it’s hard to grow and train and get better when your comfortable.
  4. Volunteer at your Church and in the Community – When you make a commitment to volunteer it gets you out of your comfort zone and into making a difference through the local church and through good local organizations.  This is one of the best ways you can grow spiritually.  It will help you to serve others and be part of something bigger than yourself.  Serving increases your responsibility and develops your character.  It also allows you to use your gifts and abilities to make a difference.
  5. Get involved in a group – When you meet with other people to build relationships, learn, and care for each other it stretches you and pushes you to grow spiritually, relationally and emotionally.  When you open your life to some other people it brings a new level of accountability and connection that often leads to growth.  Find some other men or women or couples that you can get to know better, have fun with, have spiritual conversations and pray with.
  6. Listen to Messages – There is incredible communicators out there.  Find someone you connect with and start listening to there messages.  Several that I like a lot are Andy Stanley, Craig Groeschel, Jon Weese.
  7. Read – I already mentioned reading the Bible, here I’m talking about reading blogs, articles and books.  Some people avoid reading because they hated in in school. I’m not saying you have to read every day, but try to start reading because it’s a great way to get fit spiritually, mentally and emotionally.  There are great resources out there that can help you improve your marriage, parenting, finances, work life and build your faith, develop your character and grow your leadership.  Here are three books I’m currently reading.
  • The Top Ten Leadership Commandments by Hans Finzel
  • The Catalyst Leader by Brad Lomenick
  • The Cure by John Lynch

I encourage you to pick one or two of the areas I mentioned and start incorporating it into your everyday life.  If you do all of those on a regular basis you will grow and become more fit spiritually.

Church Drift

EVERY church struggles with the tension of reaching new people and taking care of the ones already there. Churches and the people in them can drift and lose sight of the important things.  There is no perfect church or perfect way of doing church.  But every church can drift and become isolated from the world around us and lose it’s effectiveness.

When you are drifting you don’t even notice. You just wake up one day and you are in a different place

  • Relationships can be that way
  • Work can be that way
  • Finances can be that way
  • Values and character can be that way

So here are 3 things that we as a church need to fight against drifting toward:

  1. The drift toward insiders and away from outsiders.
  • Every church drifts toward this way of thinking and it’s dangerous:

o   We know our favorite songs and complain when they aren’t played – My preferences instead of what is effective in reaching other people.

o   These are our people, we take care of our own at the expense of reaching out and caring for others.

o   I have been in the same small group for 10 years instead of thinking about how to include some others in building close community and stretching myself by starting a new group.

o   We complain that we don’t know everyone anymore when the church grows, instead of celebrating that more people are connecting with God.

o   We focus on the people who are here and don’t have a passion for the people not yet here.

o   We focus on church programs or activities and not people.

o   We try to please the insiders and turn off outsiders.

o   We think we have the best children’s programs, the Best student program, the Best preaching and we stop trying to improve or innovate.

o   We stop learning and improving or changing.

How do we fight this drift?

Let’s focus more on who we want to reach, rather than who we are trying to keep.  That does not mean we don’t care about the people already here, it’s important to help everyone grow.  It’s about the main focus always being to reach more people that do not know Christ.

  • We all need to remember that Everyone spends forever somewhere, either in the presence of God in heaven or separated from him forever.
  • We have the most important mission in the world!  Therefore we should be promoting the church more than anything else.
  • The local church really is the hope of the world living and teaching the truth of Jesus Christ.
  • There are over 11 million people in Ohio and millions of them don’t go to church!
  • We can never be big enough as long there are people that don’t have a relationship with Jesus Christ.
  1. The drift toward law and away from grace
  • The natural drift of a church and people is to have a lot of rules or policies.
  • We like to have a set of rules to follow, because it helps us to know if we are winning, improving.
  • Following the rules makes us feel good, but can also cause us to be judgmental.
  • If we are not careful our focus can become more about gaining knowledge and less about loving people.

How do we fight this Drift?

We always err on the side of Grace

  • Jesus was a perfect example for us to follow:

o   Jesus spent time with Sinners and called the religious people hypocrites.

o   Matthew was a tax collector, which was a despised position, cheating people and taking their money. Jesus asking him to follow me, he didn’t ask him to clean up his act first.

o   Jesus said in Mark 2:17, It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.

  • Following rules and rituals at church is easy & comfortable.
  • Having crucial conversations, building healthy relationships and extending grace are messy, hard and uncomfortable but it’s what Jesus did.
  • We need to speak the truth in love and yet extend grace – The church should be about both truth and grace.
  • The church should be irresistible, because Jesus was irresistible.
  1. The drift toward preserving rather than advancing
  • Example: business owner…when he starts out he risks because there’s nothing to lose. The bigger the company grows the more risk-adverse he becomes.

o   Churches are the same way

o   In the beginning we had nothing but a vision, but then as we grew there is more to lose and so we become more conservative and fearful of losing what we have.

o   Jews: “we have to PRESERVE the law!”

  • But they forgot to advance the kingdom

How do we fight this drift?

Let’s remain openhanded in our attempts to advance the message of Jesus Christ

Open handed means giving freely and generously

  • So the question is what are we risking to advance the Kingdom? What are we praying for as a church? What are you praying for in your life?
  • What are we trying to preserve?  Our history?  Our traditions?  Our rituals?
  • What are we trying to advance? The Good news about Jesus Christ?
  • What are we afraid of losing?  What fears are keeping us inward focused instead of outward focused?
  • Are we comfortable in our own world or church and not concerned or passionate about those that don’t know Christ or are stuck in their faith?
  • Are we content with where we are at spiritually or hungry to advance and grow spiritually?
  • Are we as a church trying to keep what we have instead of reaching un-churched people or people that have given up on church?
  • If the local church is the hope of the world, then I want to invite you to fully participate in advancing the church.  Find a church where you can:

o   Attend, volunteer, give, connect, pray and take responsibility for all your relationships.  Find a place where your challenged, and encouraged to grow and be a part of something bigger than yourself.  Find a place where your children love going and are learning and growing and connecting with God and helping you as a parent to teach them about faith.

o   Commit to be both deep by doing what God tells us to do, loving well and wide by investing in people.