How to Help Without Hurting

If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need and has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” 1 John 3:17-18

My takeaway from that verse is that Christians need to be doing more not less to help those in need. There are two kinds of responses people can make to this verse.

  1. “I just don’t care about the poor, My life is all about me and I like it that way”
  2. “I can’t wait to help the poor! The love of God is in me”

I guess there could be a third response of I have thought about helping the poor, but just don’t know how.

A word of caution to the people with response number two. There can be mixed emotions and motives behind wanting to help the poor. Here are some possible motives:

  • A need for meaning and purpose in our lives
  • A desire to feel like we are the answer to someones problem
  • To be a bit like God – it makes me feel good to try to save or help poor people.

The danger is to unintentionally reduce poor people to objects that we use to fulfill our own need to accomplish something good. Really the answer for all three responses is that we need to be reminded of the Gospel every day. We are all broken and poor in some way. It may not be financially, but it might be relationally, emotionally, spiritually or physically. We need to be reminded that Jesus paid it all and covers all our sins and short comings. So we are not on this earth to fix ourselves or other people, we are here to love God and love other people.

Our approach to helping poor people should be to love them. Taking the time to build relationships, to listen to their story and really care about them. It means taking a longer term approach with people instead of a quick fix like paying a bill for them, or buying them groceries once. Often times we like to swoop in and help someone out and then never interact with them again. That usually confirms to that person that they are poor and feeds the shame they feel. It does not help that person heal emotionally or to mend broken relationships or build new healthy relationships.

Here are five principles we can use in our approach to giving:

  1. Give yourself first – First give yourself fully to the Lord and then to other people. This means viewing ourselves as servants, here to serve and love others.
  2. Give to the point of sacrifice – We should not just give our leftovers, but our best. We should give the first 10% of our income to God through the local church. We should give above that if we are able. We should give our talent, abilities and experiences to helping others through the local church or non-profits. We should give our best time, by planning out when we can serve and help those in need.
  3. Give willingly – giving should be voluntary and not out of obligation, but out of love. Giving is a privilege and a way of worshiping God.
  4. Give what you have – We cannot give what we do not have. We can give our money to healthy organizations, we can give our talent to help our churches and healthy non-profits, we can give our time to people and organizations as well.
  5. Give with a plan in mind – Desire is not enough, there should be a deliberate setting aside of time, talent and treasure. In other words, we need to plan out our giving. Find the right church or nonprofit that we can work with to make a difference.

In order to really help someone we need to understand if they need relief, rehabilitation or development. In many situations, relief is not needed, but rehabilitation or development is needed. Relief should go to the severely disabled, some elderly that cannot care for themselves, the very young, orphaned children, mentally ill homeless and victims of natural disaster. Most others may want relief, but need rehabilitation and development.

Most people are poor because of broken relationships. Development looks to help restore and to build healthy relationships. This takes time, patience and work. We should not do things for people that they can do for themselves. When we step in and do things for people they can do for themselves we send a message to them that they are incompetent, hopeless and helpless. Instead we should work with them to help them improve their lives. This is the helping in truth part from the opening Scripture.

This holiday season, I want to encourage you to think long-term if you want to help someone in need. If you are not willing to do that, then it would be better to not get involved. You can still help by giving to organizations that have this approach. Here are some organizations that my church supports. NewPointe Community Church also has this approach of mentoring and working long-term with people to help make big changes in their lives. We might help them financially along the way, but it is part of a plan for helping them grow and change.

How Teachable Are You?

My grandfather told once when I was younger that he found my name in the Bible. I was a little surprised and asked him where it was. He said it was in the book of Daniel, a King by the name of NebuCHADnezzar. That was the first I had ever heard that name and it has stuck with me for a long time.

I recently read about this King again and learned some interesting things about this ruler of Babylon. He was one of the most arrogant leaders in history, self-centered and full of pride. He viewed himself as god and looked at the kingdom of Babylon as something he created.

God gave this king a vision of a huge tree, chopped down by an angel. The tree represented him. God took away his kingdom in an instant even as he was bragging about what he had accomplished. God drove him into the wilderness, where he lived like an animal, living in caves and dirt shelters. He stayed there until he recognized God as the supreme ruler of the world. He finally submitted to God, gave up control and became teachable.

Being teachable is one of the most important qualities a person can have if they want to be successful. After Nebuchadnezzar submitted to God he began a new life as King , here are some things he did to develop a teachable heart:

  1. He used grateful words – he express appreciation and blessing for God’s grace and mercy. I am sure he also used kinder words with the people around him
  2. He had a hungry mind – He wanted to grow personally in character, faith and as a leader
  3. He developed a Big-Picture perspective – He began to see things from a bigger God perspective
  4. He was dissatisfied with how things where – He was not content with the status quo
  5. He had a humble heart – He no longer viewed himself as the most important person
  6. He was real – this caused people to start to follow him. He became a magnet for high level leaders.

How teachable are you? Do you prefer to just tell people what to do? Are you willing to learn from anyone? Here are a few ways you can improve your teachablity factor:

  • Don’t believe everything people say about you – Don’t get distracted by your achievements and the accolades of others.
  • Watch how you react to mistakes – Do you admit when you make a mistake? Do you apologize or make excuses?
  • Ask questions and take notes – When you meet with people try to learn something from them. Find out about them and don’t talk so much about yourself.
  • Try something new – When was the last time you tried something for the first time? Challenges stretch us and make us better.
  • Work on your area of strength – Read, talk to other people that do what you do, search the Internet for people you can connect with to learn from. Improve in the areas you are strongest. Keep stretching.

If you are a teachable person, you will always be in demand, because you will always be changing and growing. those are the type of people that become leaders and have influence and can change the world.

Focus & Self-Discipline

Today I met with a well known highly successful business man. We were talking about potentially partnering together on some ministry initiatives. As we talked it was clear that he was a man of vision, passion and focus. After we talked about the idea of working together he asked a question. So what is our next step?

I think he was testing to see if we had a vision and a plan. He wanted to know how focused we were. I was able to lay out several immediate next steps that we are taking to shape our vision and plan for helping people effectively. It made me think about how important it is to have focus as a leader.

Focus and self-discipline provide the foundation for solid leadership. If a leader gets distracted from the most important things it will cause a loss of energy and productivity. Learning self-discipline is tough. For me I have found that it really helps to develop self-discipline through physical exercise. I have been running for a couple of years and it has helped me to push myself. When I have been disciplined in my exercise and running, I have found myself much more focused on staying fit and healthy.

Here are a few things that may help you to work on focus and self-discipline:

  1. Protect your mind -Whatever you think about the most is what you will tend to focus on. When you fill your mind with the right things it will help you to be disciplined in the areas that will bring you the most success. When you allow lies and deception to fill your mind it leads you down the wrong paths.
  2. Guard your heart -A focused self-disciplined person must prevent old patterns from penetrating their hearts. Everyone has weaknesses and temptations that can creep into their hearts, that can not only distract them, but destroy them.
  3. Guide your lifestyle As a leader it is important to live a life of integrity and character. Lifestyle decisions can lead to distractions and a lack of discipline. This can keep you from being effective and influential.

In order to be focused and self-disciplined, you will need to say no to some good things. You will need to do some things you don’t want to do and give away some things you like to do.

What areas of your life need more self-discipline? Where are you lacking focus? What is distracting you from the important things?

Narrow the Focus

One of the philosophies of leadership that NewPointe Community Church has embraced is to narrow the focus. This has also been a person goal of mine as I try to improve my own leadership ability. So why would this be an important way to grow as a leader?

One of the ways a leader can become ineffective is when they become distracted. That happens when a leader is trying to spin too many plates at one time. When you try to lead multiple priorities you become less effective, because your mind must try to bounce from one priority to the next.

It can be the same way in our personal lives. When we are running it too many directions we feel less effective as parents, spouses and friends. The busier we become the more our important relationships suffer.

Paul talks about this in Philippians chapter 3. Paul openly communicated his priorities. All the achievements and culture of his past he counted as rubbish, in order to gain Christ. He wanted to know Christ, experience His power, share in and complete His sufferings, and ultimately be conformed to His death (Phil. 3:10,11). Here is a man on a mission. He narrowed his focus to the essentials. Leaders who change the world have this kind of sharp focus.

So what does it take to gain the focus required to become a truly effective leader? The keys are priorities and concentration. Author John Maxwell says “A leader who knows his priorities but lacks concentration knows what to do, but never gets it done. A leader with concentration but no priorities has excellence without progress.” When a leader can do both of these well he can achieve some great things.

Paul did three things:

  1. He discerned what was holding him back – In other words he learned to let go of some things he once cherished, because they were distracting him from the most important things. Sometimes we need to say no to some really good things in order to do the best things. We also need to look at any bad habits that are holding us back as well.
  2. He discovered what he wanted – Paul’s burning desire was a close relationship with Christ. That became his solitary pursuit. He accomplished some great things with that as his main focus in life. He became a great leader, writer, and visionary communicating the Good News about Jesus to the world.
  3. He determined how to get it – He put together a strategy of narrowing his focus and concentrating on the main thing as much as he possibly could.

So here are some takeaways for all of us to improve our focus:

  1. Work on Yourself – You are your greatest asset, so you need to spend a good bit of your time working on your own growth. Leaders that stop learning and growing don’t make an impact on the world around them. Great leaders have a personal growth plan.
  2. Work on your Priorities – Can you name your top 3 priorities in your life? Does what you say and what you do line up? When was the last time you wrote down the top three priorities in each of the important areas of your life (Family, God, Work, Community, School, Friendship). Great leader know their top priorities and look at them daily.
  3. Work on your Strengths – It is very hard to improve your areas of weakness. That is why it is so important to know your strength and surround yourself with people that are strong in your areas of weakness. Write down your top three strengths and then list three ways you can work on those areas. Great leaders know and work within their areas of strength.
  4. Work with your colleagues – Team leadership is by far more effective than leading on your own. Build the team around you whether at work, home, church or community. When you invest in other people you build relationships that can help you accomplish the important things. Great leaders develop other people.

How can you narrow the focus in your life? What do you need to stop doing? What do you need to start doing? What do you need to do more of? What are your priorities? What do you need to concentrate on?

How to Grow your Faith, Character & Leadership

My personal mission statement I have tried to follow the last 10 years is “Growing in Faith, Character and Leadership. Most people would probably say they also want to grow in these areas of their lives. What I have learned is that I cannot grow in these areas on my own. I can learn about these areas, but to grow and actually live it out, I can only do that with the help of Christ.

In John Chapter 15 Jesus talks about the vine and the branches. He is the Vine and we are the branches that produce fruit. Jesus talks about remaining or abiding in Him in order to bear fruit. In other words if we stay joined to or close to Christ, He produces fruit in our lives. The key is to stay close to Him, to stay connected to Him.

Abiding or remaining in Christ is just another name for intimacy with Christ. He wants to express His life through us, which comes through your attachment to Him. If our prayer life is just a matter of shooting up an occasional SOS as emergencies come up, we are missing that intimacy or closeness. If we just have our devotions in the morning in order to get it done and check it off our list, we don’t understand abiding.

In order to stay connected or close to Christ we must first understand how much He loves us. That should be our focus, love. Later in this same chapter Jesus says, “Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends. You are my friends when you do the things I command you.”

Our faith, our character and our leadership can only grow if we stay close to Christ. When we submit to Him and talk to Him on a regular basis. When we regularly read, listen or speak His words from the Bible. When we spend time worshiping Him and soaking up His love, we grow. When we meditate or focus on Jesus some amazing things start to happen in our lives. We have more wisdom, strength, courage, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, righteousness and self-control.

So if you are looking to grow in your faith, character, leadership or other areas of your life, the best thing you can do is focus on Christ and discover how much He loves you. We cannot manufacture Character, Christ produces it when we stay close to Him. We cannot love our spouse unconditionally, but Christ can through us. We cannot lead people as we should, but Christ can direct us and lead through us. We cannot have great faith on our own, but Christ can grow our faith when we stay close to Him. When we are close to Him, we see things more like He sees them and He can do things in us we could never do on our own.

I can’t but He can, should be our prayer every day.