Choose a life of Self Giving

I believe life is about growing in our relationship with Jesus Christ. When we do that the rest of our lives find direction, meaning and purpose.

And one of the ways of God that leads us deeper into this kind of relationship is the pathway of self-giving. 

I’m not talking about giving your money, though the happiest and healthiest saints are always the most generous. I’m talking about giving yourself. 

We know from experience and from the Bible that the path of self-giving is the path of greatest joy and growth. It’s not free from risk and pain. But it is the path of greatest joy. 

Paul said in Acts 20:35, “Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” More happy. More deeply satisfying. More rich and solid. Especially giving yourself.

This is who you are as a Christian. The moment you become a Christian, you are a giver by nature. self-giving is part of your nature, your essence, your identity.

Listen to Jesus: “Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him [that’s what it means to be a Christian] will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14). 

That is who you are. You are a spring. You don’t do a spring. You are a spring. Whoever believes in me, Jesus said, “Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water” (John 7:38). That’s who you are. You are a spring. You are a fountain.

And what makes springs and fountains happy and healthy is when they make streams. If you stop them up, they stagnate. If you let them give — if you let them become what they are — they stay clear and healthy and life-giving and happy. 

Let’s turn to 1 Thessalonians 2:1–12.

Seven Ways Paul Gave Himself

Now listen to Paul as he tells us seven ways that he gave them himself. Please, don’t think of this as for someone else. Be encouraged to become what you are in Christ, a fountain, a spring, a giver of yourself.

1. First, Paul took a risk.

Verse 2: “But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict.”

Going to church or going back to church is risky. Many of you have had bad church experiences, you’ve been hurt or disappointed or neglected or even rejected.
Taking the step of going is big. Walking into a new church with all the unknowns, is taking a risk

It’s the same thing getting into a small group or volunteering to serve. It’s risky, you could get hurt again, you could be disappointed again, you might not click or it might not be the right fit.

But that’s what the Gospel is all about – taking a risk, living and giving our lives to others. Loving and serving and growing. You can’t do that if you live an isolated, careful life. 

Sometimes we need to step out of our comfort zones and take a risk

2. Paul lived with integrity.

Verse 3: “For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive.”

He gave them the truth and kept himself pure (that word for “impurity” is regularly used by Paul for sexual sin). He wasn’t doing this to find an inappropriate relationship.

He’s saying look guys our motives for helping you, for sharing the Gospel with you was from a heart of integrity. Integrity is not living perfect, but it’s being quick to admit your failures, your mistakes, asking for forgiveness – It’s being open, honest and of good character.

Our desire should be to live lives of integrity so that we can be a positive helpful influence on others.

We are not perfect, but we do have Christ, we do have the Holy Spirit.

3. Paul was not a People Pleaser.

Verse 4: “We speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.” Verse 6: “Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others.”

People-pleasing makes people into phonies or pretenders. It usually means they are deeply insecure. 

What they want most is your approval. And so they are not real. They will do or say anything to make you happy, to avoid conflict or get you to like them

We all have some of these tendencies of wanting people to like us or to get their approval. That’s not wrong, it’s just should not be our primary motivator for doing things..

That is not giving yourselves. You never really know the real person. Paul will have nothing to do with that. He was all about pleasing God – His focus was on listening to God, obeying God, Sharing the good news about Jesus.

Relax in Jesus, and be who you are — warts, wrinkles, scars, and all.

4. Paul was Honest & Humble.

Verse 5: “For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed — God is witness.”

Flattery is using language not for the sake of truth, but for the sake of manipulation. You want something. 

In this case, Paul was being accused of buttering them up as a way to get money. They say he wanted their money, not their souls. And he says, “you and God know that is not true.”

We should live our lives the same way, not trying to manipulate people to get what we want, to get our way, to make more money.

We should not go to church or get into a small group to better our financial position or our status or to take advantage of someone else’s generosity, but to give ourselves.

Listen to verse 9: “For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you.” He was not after their money. He was after their hearts for their good, he wanted them to have a relationship with Jesus. 

He was there to give them himself. When you give yourself, you don’t flatter, and you don’t position yourself for money, and you don’t expect to be served. You are there to give. That’s who you are in Christ — a giver.

That should be our attitude when you go to church, when we join a small group, when we volunteer to serve. Not what can I get, but what can I give.

5. Paul Cared Deeply for others.

Verse 6–8: We could have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.

He exchanged a relationship of power for a relationship of affection. This is a very vulnerable thing for a leader to do, or anyone really. 

Caring about people and caring for people is part of our calling to give ourselves to each other. 

Don’t ever think you are above this. Don’t ever think you are too sophisticated or too self-sufficient, or too cool to give yourself like this — showing tender affection like a mother with her children.

Who can you show kindness to? Where can you build meaningful relationships that lead to care and friendship.

For some of you it starts in your homes, with your spouse or with your family. But don’t stop there. You can be a part of a group, serve on a team, be a mentor or pray for people and encourage people that are hurting or struggling.

Ask God to change your heart, to help you care deeply about other people and how you can love and serve others.

6. Paul treated people right.

Verse 10: “You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers.”

He is not saying he was sinless. What this means is: We honored God, we treated people right, and we gave no one a legitimate reason to blame us for our behavior

He was above reproach. What a beautiful thing — what a compelling thing — when we can be real and be good. He walked in integrity.

Paul was open, vulnerable and real. There was nothing fake about him. He was genuine, he treated people with respect, love and care. He was full of truth and grace, which made it hard for people to find fault in him or accuse him of anything shady.

7. Paul was an Encourager

Verses 11–12: “For you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.”

And the legacy was not the memory of himself, but the kingdom and the glory of God.

Paul was a great encourager, just like a father encourages his children, so we can be known as an encourager, instead of a complainer.

Who can you encourage? Write a note, send  a text, say a prayer, visit, call.

Bottom Line: You Have Something to Give, Choose a life of giving Yourself.

Three Relationship Tips

We were created for relationships. God made us to be in relationship with other people, and with him. When we are not in healthy relationships our lives are more difficult, dark, and lonely. In order to improve our relationships with people and God, here are three simple things we can do to grow, and become more healthy.

  1. Spend Time Together – If you don’t intentionally spend time together, you don’t get to know the other person. It’s in those times together, that the relationship has a chance to grow, both deeper and closer. Regular touches face to face, eye to eye, where you talk, catch up, ask questions, encourage and resolve conflict. When it comes to spending time with God, it also takes being intentional. The ways I do that is mainly through prayer, simply talking and listening to God. Reading Scripture is another way I connect with him. Musical worship, meditation and being out in creation are other ways I connect with God. Whether it’s another person or God, make time for each other. Plan times together where you are not interrupted or distracted.
  2. Listen and Pay Attention – This is a huge thing in relationships. Most conflict happens because of misunderstandings. When you are with a person you care about, practice active listening, by asking clarifying questions. Pay attention to their non verbal language. Be fully present by not being distracted by your phone, the TV, or other people. This is a great way to let someone know you care about them, by listening and paying attention. How are you doing in listening and paying attention to God and what he is saying to you?
  3. Practice Forgiveness – No relationship can last without giving and receiving forgiveness. We all are imperfect and make mistakes. We can and do hurt each other, maybe unintentionally or maybe intentionally. Forgiveness is the secret sauce to a healthy relationship. It helps us to keep short accounts and not let things build up. Forgiveness is the beginning of healing and helps us to not keep score or bring up old hurts from the past. Forgiving is not forgetting, but it can lead to forgetting, or to not holding an offense against someone.

I could give many more tips on healthy relationships. The big thing to me is that any relationship that is important will take work. The more work you put into the relationship the healthier it becomes. Anything that is neglected tends to deteriorate. Don’t let that happen to your relationships. Make time and find ways to build up and improve your relationships. You will never regret that effort.

Six Ways to Handle Stress

We all experience stress every day. Some days are much worse than others. I’ve recently experienced some stress related to travel that made me think about how to handle and manage the stress we face every day. First our flight got cancelled, then our new flight was delayed 3 hours, which caused us to miss our connecting flight. You probably got stressed out just reading that.

When stress builds up over time it can wear us down, and take a toll on us physically, emotionally and spiritually. When we are worn down we often will do and say things that we can regret later.

Stress is often relatively short-term, and is often caused by feeling that work or home life is out of control. When both of those are out of control the stress feels extra heavy.

Maybe you have a heavy work week with several big projects, causing you to work extra hours, and maybe pushing to meet a tight deadline. You may also be experiencing tension at home with a close relationship, or have some financial pressure that has been building.

Most of the time we have high stress days or weeks, and then days or weeks of lower stress. It’s when those stress days move into months and years that it can take a toll on us to the breaking point.

Prolonged stress can lead to burnout. When you start reaching the point of burnout, your work starts to not seem as meaningful, and there is often a disconnect between what you are doing and what you want to do. You start to feel like you’re just going through the motions, and you can become cynical, critical and adversarial. You are probably experiencing regular mental and physical exhaustion, and you’re finding it hard to rest.

So what can we do to manage stress. First it’s important to recognize the unhealthy ways that we are dealing with stress. Many people will self medicate by drinking, smoking, eating, shopping, binging on something. I’ve been binging on Law & Order SVU, Criminal Minds and Chicago PD.

Next you can start working on healthy ways to deal with stress. Here are just a few that help me:

  1. Exercise/Eat Healthy/Sleep – I put those together because those are all physical things we can do to help with our stress. Those three things, when done in a healthy way, can reduce stress and make you stronger physically and emotionally. You become more resilient and can bounce back faster.
  2. Prayer/Meditation/Worship – I put those three together because those are spiritual things you can do to reduce stress in a big way. I believe in and follow Jesus, and when I spend more time with Him, I feel so much better and less stressed. I also include reading my Bible and doing daily devotions to help prepare me everyday for the stress that is coming. Block off extra time when stress is high for Quiet time with God. Listen to worship music, and sing along. Write in a journal and list everything you’re grateful for. Caring for yourself spiritually builds internal strength, and allows God to make changes in you and through you.
  3. Plan for and take breaks during the day, during the week, and during the month. – Every day take short refreshment breaks. It could be a 10 minute walk around the office, going and getting a drink of water, standing in the sunshine for a few minutes or taking 5 minutes to pray. Each week you should have a day of rest, where you are not working, but resting, reading, exercising, sleeping, spending time with loved ones. Every month you should plan a little extra time for self care, spiritual care or relational care. Plan those and put them on your calendar.
  4. Have honest conversations – Talk to your leader if you’re able to, about the stress you are feeling. Ask for clear expectations, and help in prioritizing your work. Also ask your leader if you have the right goals, and if they should be adjusted. If you don’t have any goals for work or home, work on setting a few and then talk with your boss or spouse. If you’re in a toxic environment have the courage to talk about that, and offer ways that you can help make it better.
  5. Learn the art of saying no, and asking for help – This can be hard, but is a great way to reduce stress. You can say no and still be kind and helpful. It’s also wise to ask for help. If you are unsure about something, or don’t know how to do it, ask for help or clarity. Good leaders appreciate when you ask questions, and you can avoid a lot of stress and miscommunication when you ask good questions. This works at home as well.
  6. Finally talk to a counselor, mentor or pastor – This can help to dig a little deeper and find out if there are things that are causing stress that are under the surface, or buried inside you. This doesn’t mean you are weak, it actually takes courage and strength to go get help, and it will reduce your stress in the long run.

Philippians 4:6-7 is very helpful when it comes to stress. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Psalm 55:22 says “Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you”

Jesus also told his disciples to “come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” When they had been overworked and overwhelmed Jesus encouraged them to get away and rest. That’s great advice for us today.

A Leaders First Priority – Vision

Leadership can be difficult, challenging and yet very rewarding. So much goes into leadership, and a leader never arrives or is perfect. Leading people is a privilege, a responsibility, and it takes continuous work to improve and grow.

One of the most important things any leader can bring to the people they lead is vision. So much has been written about vision, but I want to try to simplify what it means.

A leader has to figure out what needs to be done. Leaders get things done through other people. What needs to get done in the business, organization or family that will get them going in the direction you are heading? A vision is a clear picture of what could be, and why that’s important.

I believe every person should have a vision for their own lives. A leader must have a clear vision for their own life, and that often overlaps with the organization, department or group they are leading.

A vision must also be repeated over and over again. A leaders job is to keep people focused on the vision and reminding them how what they are doing is contributing to that vision. Every sale, every phone call, every email, every product, every delivery, every conversation, every meeting, every goal is contributing to the vision.

I work at a church and our vision is to be a healing place for a hurting world. We want every person that comes into contact with our church to Know God, Find Freedom, Discover Purpose, and Make a Difference.

With that in mind, the decisions we make and the plans we make are done through that filter. A vision needs to be simple, but compelling. Easy to understand, yet inspiring to the people.

We really believe that the world we live in is broken, and a lot of people are hurting and struggling. The church should be a place of healing and hope. A place where no matter what your background or experiences you can come and feel welcomed and safe. We also believe that God can transform any life and every person has a soul that will live forever somewhere, that’s why we do what we do.

If you are leading a family, a business, a department, a team, or a group, think about what the vision is. What needs to be done in order to get there. These are such important conversations to have with your team, or family, but before you can do that it has to be clear in your own mind. So write it down, find someone to work with you to ask the right questions and draw out of you what the vision is for yourself and your organization or family.

Every day the leader has to think about the vision and keep it front and center to the people they lead. Vision is the first priority in leadership. Vision lifts, expands and brings oxygen to the organization, the family, the group. So start with vision and dream big.

A Tribute to my Dad

Loyal Stutzman 1944-2021

Growing up with a dad is so important. I was blessed to have a dad for most of my life. There are so many things we learn from our parents about how to live life, and be successful. Parents help to shape their children and guide them to know right and wrong, to make good decisions and to learn skills, habits and abilities.

Children also can learn negative things at home and can experience lifelong damage as a result of a parents actions, inactions, words or beliefs. Being in ministry I’m constantly reminded about the many hurting broken families in this world. The real hardships and struggles that many people go through. Growing up without a dad or a mom is very hard.

Having a dad that has faith in Jesus and lives his life for Him first is a precious gift to his children. I was blessed to grow up in such a home. My dad loved the Lord and and taught us to do the same through his actions and words.

My dad passed away a few days ago and it’s caused me to think back to my early years at home and my memories of my dad. I have to say I’ve actually smiled more than I’ve cried so far. Looking at the many pictures has triggered some great memories about my dad. The times of gathering as a family, eating Sunday dinners together (meatloaf made a regular appearance). I also remember going to church as a family, doing family devotions together and praying for our extended family together. I remember the Christmas gatherings with food and presents, and dad would always read the Christmas story about Jesus.

As I grew older we still got together on a fairly regular basis. For a while we went to dad & moms place every Tuesday night for supper. We would eat and laugh and talk about what was going on in our lives.

As I and my brothers got married and started families these gathering times were less frequent but always special when we did get together.

As I think about my dad there are so many lessons I learned by simply watching him and listening to him over the years. Here are a few that are special to me and that I have taken on as his son.

  • Work hard and Provide for your family – My dad drove truck for most of his life. He worked hard and gave his best at all the jobs he had. He learned to drive and loved the open road and seeing the country. The people that worked with my dad saw how reliable, honest and trustworthy he was. My dad’s CB handle was the Wood Chopper, I don’t know why, maybe because he snored so loud or maybe because he worked so hard. He logged over a million miles and rarely complained, steady and reliable. Because he drove long distance sometimes we was not home a lot during the week. That is what made the weekends so special for us boys.
  • Eat good food and enjoy life – My dad liked to eat! I get my shape from him. He liked most kinds of food and really enjoyed my moms cooking. He called my moms cooking eating at Susie’s Diner. He loved sandwiches and soup. He also loved breakfast, eating eggs and bacon. I am the same way. Dad also liked to laugh and joke. He loved to share a good joke and laugh.
  • Be a Man of Integrity – My dad was a man of character and integrity. If he said he was going to do something he did it. If he made a mistake he would admit it. If he needed help he would ask for it. He told the truth and expected us boys to also be truthful. I was a bit of a challenge as a kid growing up. Dad was always gentle but firm. I don’t ever remember him saying a bad word or putting me down or even yelling at us. He would punish us when we where bad, but he also showed love and compassion.
  • Serve God and other people – My Dad was very active in his local church, serving in many different capacities. He was a song leader, something he learned growing up. He sang in a men’s quartet for a number of years and then used that gift to serve his local church. He also taught the adult Sunday School classes many times over the years. He also served in leadership at his church as the Administrator and then as an Elder. He used his influence to encourage people and mentor people over the years as well.
  • Be Humble – My Dad was very humble and did not want to be the center of attention. He was content to work in the background, but was willing to step up when he had to. Anyone that knew my dad knew that he was a kind, gentle, wise man.
  • Be a man of Faith – The best thing about my dad was that he was a follower of Jesus Christ. He loved the Lord and had a personal relationship with Jesus. That was the most important part of his life. His faith guided every other part of his life. His faith impacted his marriage of 55 years. It impacted the way he raised his three boys. It impacted how he worked and how he served. What I saw in my dad was an unswerving faith. He loved to talk about end times and read prophesy books. It makes me smile to know that he is in heaven and with Jesus and knows exactly what that is like. I love to think about how he is seeing many family and loved ones that are also there and that some day I will get to see him again.

Because of his faith in Jesus, we do not need to be troubled.  Yes we hurt and are sad, but what a tremendous gift he has given to our family.  To know that he is now in heaven, because of his relationship with Jesus.

In John Chapter 14 Jesus said these words to His disciples after he told them he was going to die.  

“Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Trust in God; trust also in me.  In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.  You know the place where I am going.”

One of his disciples named Thomas asked the question many of us would ask.  We don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way.

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”  Because of my dad’s faith we do not need to be troubled, we know he is in a much better place and is serving God in heaven as we speak.  

Jesus made it very clear that there is only one way to heaven and that is by believing and receiving Jesus Christ.

You see, there are two things that are going to last forever, One is your spirit.  The Bible says that God placed eternity in hearts of men.  That means we will live forever somewhere; either in the presence of a loving God or separated from Him forever and ever.  We were made to last forever, our brains do not know how to process death and that is why we must go through the grieving process.  Our brains were not wired for death.

It all depends on what you do with the person of Jesus Christ.  

The second thing that will last forever is the Word of God.  The Bible says that the grass will wither and the flower will die, but the Word of God will stand forever.

I believe that Dad would want me to share the four things that God wants you to know from His word.  Because he loved his family and friends he would be very concerned about all of you following him to heaven to be reunited again some day.  He would want all of you to know what he knows.

First, God wants you to know that He wants you to experience Peace and have eternal life.  God loves you, and He wants you to experience His peace as a way of life.  The Bible says, “We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  And The gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  

The second thing God wants you to know is that you are separated from God by your Sin.

Sin means missing the mark.  Sin is also the selfish attitude of ignoring or rejecting God and going our own way.  Our sin causes a gap between us and God.

God did not make us to be robots and force us to serve Him.  He gave us free will and freedom to choose.  We often choose to disobey and go our own way.  When you disobey God, you and I sin, and that separates us from God.  The Bible says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God.  That puts all of us in the same boat.  

Many times we try to overcome this issue of sin by doing good things.  If I could just do some good works then maybe I could tip the scales and God will let me in.  “I am basically a good person, I haven’t hurt anyone and I try to do the right thing most of the time.”  So we work hard at being good, but how good is good enough?  We can ever know for sure if we have done enough good to make the cut.  So we try to bridge that gap between us and God with good works, never knowing if I am good enough.

The third thing that God wants us to know is that the answer to this problem of sin and separation from God is Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ is the only answer to the problem of separation from God.  God knew we could never be good enough on our own.  He had a plan all along, He sent his perfect son to take our place, to stand in that gap for us.  Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead to pay the penalty our sins require.  It has been paid in full.  Jesus has bridged that gap that separates you from God.  The Bible says, “God demonstrates His own love for us in this:  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  And in the book of John Jesus said “ I tell you the truth, whoever hears My Word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.”

The last thing that God wants you to know is that you can receive Christ.  You can receive Christ as your Savior and Lord when you believe in His word and trust in only Him to save you.  The Bible says:  “To all who receive Him, to those who believe in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.”  What an amazing gift.

To receive Christ you need to admit you have missed the mark, be willing to turn from your sin, believe that Jesus Christ died for you on the cross as the sacrifice, covering all your sins, and rose from the grave, defeating Satan and death and finally through prayer, invite Jesus to come in to your life and receive Him as your Savior.

Maybe you have never really accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior.  Maybe you don’t know if you would go to heaven if you died today.  By sincerely praying a simple prayer and believing it with all your heart you can have that assurance today.  

Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I have sinned against you.  I know I can’t pay you back and make it right.  I believe that you paid for my sins by dying on the cross.  I am truly sorry for all my sins.  Right now I open the door of my heart and ask you to come in and forgive me.  I want to follow you as best I can.  Thank you for giving me the gift of forgiveness and eternal life.  Thank you for saving me right now.  In Jesus name Amen.

My last memory of my dad was him slowly standing up giving me a hug and saying I love you. I’ll treasure that the rest of my life.

I

Four Tips on Dealing with Change

There is one thing you can be sure of, and that is things will change. We are all facing changes, some big and some small. Our bodies are changing because of the aging process, our eating and exercising habits. Our finances are changing based on choices and decisions we make.

The world around us is also changing. People are pushing for their agenda, their beliefs, their values, their convictions. The way we communicate is changing and the way we interact is changing. Technology is changing rapidly. Even what is viewed as right and wrong is changing.

With all this change happening, how do we cope with or manage the changes in our lives? Here are some thoughts I hope will help.

  1. Seek Wise Counsel – This is a biblical principle that helps a lot. For me the first place I go for wise counsel is God. If I’m facing a change, or have to make a decision because of change, I start by praying and talking to God about it. I also read God’s Word. I will also talk to trusted friends and family about the change, ask them questions and even ideas on what to do. For big changes that are causing stress, seeking out a counselor, pastor or mentor can be a big help. The key here is to humble yourself and talk to God and wise people to help you navigate some of life’s biggest changes.
  2. Focus on what you can control – There are so many things that are out of our control. When we start to think about the things we can control it really comes back to us. We can control the words that we speak, the emails or social media posts we write. We can control the way we respond to change and conflict. We can control what read, who we listen to, and the choices we make. Emotions can be hard to control, but we can be aware of what emotions we are feeling. When we do respond in a bad way, we do have control of what we do after that. We can ask for forgiveness, we can bring clarity and ask questions to try to better understand.
  3. Remember what you’re grateful for – Grateful people are much better at handling change. It helps to think about the good things in our lives instead of focusing on the negative and whats out of our control. It’s very helpful to actually write down things you are grateful for on a regular basis. We all need to keep the right perspective when it comes to change. Change can be hard, but it can also be helpful and good in the long run. Remembering what we are grateful for is vital to working through changes.
  4. Get back up – When change hits us and knocks us down, don’t stay down there. Get back up and keep moving forward. Maybe you go talk to someone about what just happened. Maybe you go spend some time with God. Maybe you go on a walk or a run or exercise. Maybe you list out 10 things you’re grateful for. Maybe you go do some research on what happened to better understand what is going on. This is about being resilient, it’s the quality that keeps us going, growing and making a difference.

Change is going to happen, but it doesn’t have to make your life miserable unless you choose to let it. You don’t have to embrace change, but you do need to deal with it, and choose to get better as a result of whatever happens to you.

Ten Principles for Healthy Leaders and Healthy Cultures

Healthy leadership is rare these days. Healthy cultures are a hard to find. Leaders set the tone for the culture of their organization. Therefore, the health of the leader determines the health of the organization. Healthy things grow and thrive. For an organization to grow, thrive, adapt and change it must be healthy. As I think about some of the key principles of healthy leaders and cultures these rose to the top.

  1. Healthy Vision – When it comes to any kind of leadership it starts with vision. A leader that has a vision will lead much better than one who doesn’t have a vision or is uncertain of the vision. A clear vision brings focus to the leader and the organization. A vision points people to a better future. A healthy leader has a vision for a better future and what could be or should be. The vision cannot be about the leader, but about the organization and why they exist. Getting the vision right means getting the leadership right.
  2. Healthy Values – Once you have a vision you also need to understand your values. It starts with personal values and then organizational values. What are those key foundational things that the vision sits on. A healthy leader has a good sense of the values that have shaped his or her character and that will influence the values of the organization. A healthy culture will have clear, and well known values that everyone can agree on, and live out.
  3. Healthy Heart – Your heart is your inner being, what you believe and what you value. It’s where everything flows out of. Having a healthy heart means dealing with the hurts, trauma and struggles that can get lodged in your heart. Healthy leaders do regular heart checks to make sure there is nothing growing in there that could become a problem. Practicing forgiveness and confession are two ways to keep your heart healthy. Our character comes from our heart, so a healthy heart leads to a strong, positive character.
  4. Healthy Emotions – The emotional health of a leader is one of the key indicators of success. The ability to also develop emotionally healthy people in the organization goes a long way to a healthy thriving culture. Just like a healthy heart, it takes self-awareness and an understanding of where you might be unhealthy emotionally. Sometimes it is easier to see how we respond in unhealthy ways like avoidance, anger, and defensiveness. Unhealthy emotions are like warning signs that tell us something is wrong, so understanding those emotions goes a long way to leading people well.
  5. Healthy Thinking – The thought life a leader is one of the most important things about them. That self talk that happens throughout the day tends to drive behavior and actions. Healthy leaders think more positive thoughts than negative. It’s also important to guard what and who you are listening to. The things that you feed your mind affect your thinking. Guarding your mind also helps to guard your heart.
  6. Healthy Humility – A big part of leadership is thinking about others and the organization more than yourself. A healthy, self-aware leader knows what his strengths are, and what his weaknesses are. A humble leader is always looking for the best ideas, not confirmation for his ideas. Healthy humility also means having confidence in your own abilities, and your teams abilities. Not being over confident and not being negative or passive. It’s important to find the right balance.
  7. Healthy Conflict – In leadership there will always be conflict. People disagree, things get misunderstood, people can be selfish and often don’t listen. Healthy conflict is going directly to the person, and asking clarifying questions. Going into those conversations with the mindset of trying to understand the other person. The leader that addresses things quickly avoids the deadly drip of a toxic culture. Listening is vital to make sure you are understanding the other person, and then being clear on where you stand and what you expect.
  8. Healthy Communication – A leader must be able to clearly communicate with the people they lead, and the the community around them. Healthy communication means you are clear, concise and that those hearing understand. Healthy communication is two way, back and forth, so listening well is a huge part of healthy communication. The ability to communicate both verbally and in writing are important skills for healthy leaders to constantly be improving. Not communicating is actually communicating, and people will fill in the blanks if you don’t communicate.
  9. Healthy Systems – A healthy vision and a healthy leader must have healthy systems in order to get anything done. Healthy communication must lead to healthy systems to guide people to execute the vision. A culture that lacks clear, helpful systems will soon slip into mediocrity and chaos. System should be constantly reviewed and tested to ensure they are working as intended.
  10. Healthy Faith – Leaders that have faith in God have an extra advantage. They have access to the creator of the universe, the all powerful, all knowing, compassionate and loving God. Prayer, and time in God’s Word build a solid foundation for a healthy leader. Plugging into God helps the leader in all other areas I mentioned before this. The most important thing about a healthy leader is what they believe about God. In today’s dark world a leader with faith shines brightly.

One last bonus principle is Healthy Failure. The way you handle failure will speak volumes about how healthy you are as a leader and organization. Failure should always be looked at as an opportunity to learn and grow. Failure means you are trying to do something. It’s a chance to ask good questions, make key changes and build better systems.

Lead On and get Healthy!

4 Things I learned in 2020

I love this time of the year, not because it’s winter, I could do without the cold. I love it because we are starting a new year. In my mind it’s like turning a new chapter in a book. I love to read and it’s always satisfying to finish a chapter and move on to the next one.

The year 2020 was unexpectedly difficult, and unusual in many ways. Life is often that way, but it’s important to keep going, turning the pages and eventually a whole new chapter.

As I reflect on this past year, I thought I would share a few things I learned and then some things I’m looking forward too in the next chapter.

  • Life can be unfair – When it comes to struggles, problems, tragedy, loss or heartbreak, no one is immune. Bad things happen to all kinds of people, just like good things happen to all kinds of people. Some of those things are out of our control, so we need to focus only on what we can control. We also need to be careful not to judge or envy others, instead we are called by Jesus to love one another, care for one another, serve one another. When life seems unfair, I try to be grateful for what is right and good and a blessing in my life. God promises to walk with us in those Valley’s of life. This is a hurting broken world, it’s not heaven. That helps me to understand why this life is unfair, heaven will be much different, until then we have to keep going forward as best we can.
  • Make plans but be flexible – Every year I make plans at work, at home and for all areas of my life. I set goals and dream about what could be better and improved. This last year reminded me that plans can change quickly, because of things that are out of our control. The ability to be flexible and adjust is vital, especially when there is turmoil around us. At the church where I work we had to adjust our plans when we stopped meeting in person for a couple of months because of the virus. We had to make adjustments to the way we did ministry, had meetings, met with and cared for people. We also had to make new plans for when we started gathering together again, and continued to improve our online presence. When things don’t go as planned, learn from that experience and keep moving forward. Don’t be afraid to change direction, stop doing something or improvise. It can cause us to be more creative, and think differently, which can be a good thing.
  • My faith in Jesus is more important than ever – My faith is what keeps me going and the reason I get up in the morning. When life is hard, unfair, in turmoil or just plain dark, I can lean on Jesus and draw from his strength and power to keep going. As I’ve grown older my faith has become more important to me. That faith and belief is what allows me to be calm in a storm, to remain steadfast, and not be shaken when things fall apart. It gives me a Peace that’s hard to explain.
  • Everyone is at different place in life, faith and maturity – This past year has shown me again that everyone is different. People process information and circumstance much differently. Understanding this helps me to be less judgmental and more compassionate. My desire is to help people grow in faith, character and leadership. So I approach each day with that mindset of trying to encourage or inspire someone to make a change in their life or take a positive step forward in their life.

As I look forward to this new year I want to continue to connect with people in a way that leads to life change. I have things I need to work on in my own life that cause me to struggle, but that always helps me to be empathetic to the people around me. Life is hard, but I am convinced that God can help. 2021 is a new chapter with much of it not yet written. I love the fact that God knows already what this next year holds, and I can’t wait to see it revealed.

Let’s turn the page, and play our part in writing the next chapter and be open to what God has to say.

Thoughts on Racism

Racism has been a hot topic this year, and has a long history here in America, and around the world. The sad reality is that there continues to be people that think they are superior to other people based on skin color or national origin or economic status. That’s sad because it’s not true. That’s a lie, planted long ago that has devastated generations of people. To be clear, that way of thinking is evil. Someone’s worth is not based on the color of their skin, where they come from, how they look, or how much money they make. Your worth comes from God, who created you uniquely. It’s your character and your heart that really matter.

It’s also sad and wrong to put people into certain categories based on the color of their skin or where they grew up. Not all white people are a certain way and not all black people are a certain way. It’s ignorant to think that all Hispanic people are the same or all Asian people are the same. The truth is there are haters, racists, and evil of all skin colors. There are also good, humble, caring people of all skin colors. Color has nothing to do with the character of the person.

The truth is we all have a spirit, body and mind. We all have life experiences that have shaped us and influenced us. We all have beliefs that drive our behavior, and it has nothing to do with skin color but everything to do with character and who or what you put your faith in. We all have a way of thinking about the world, ourselves and other people. Some of those beliefs may be true but some of those beliefs may be wrong. The world around us and the people around us influence us as we grow up. That can shape our beliefs, practices and behaviors. We can all pick up things that are deceptive, and not good. That’s why it’s so important to be open to learning, growing and changing. When we know the truth it sets us free.

The beauty of Jesus is his love and acceptance of all people. God created each of us, God wants a relationship with all of us, and he made a simple way for that to happen, He sent Jesus. When we have that relationship with Jesus, our perspective changes from seeing people on the outside to seeing people as a soul that will spend forever somewhere, either with God or separated from Him. That way of thinking helps us to love, serve, forgive and persevere. It helps us to see the world, ourselves and other people deeper than skin color or outward appearance.

So even if you are not a believer in Jesus, you can follow his example of seeing a person as a person, and not a color or an object. We are so quick to judge in this country and most of the time we judge wrong. We don’t know all the facts, we don’t know what’s going on in someone’s else’s life, and yet we are quick to condemn, blame, shame or cancel people. So stop judging people and situations based on a social media story or video. Be careful about the words you say or type. Ask yourself, are those words helpful or hurtful, will they make the world a better place or worse?

I would like to challenge anyone who reads this to ask yourself if you are perfect and without flaw. I’d you are, then you can judge others, but if you are imperfect and flawed and have problems and issues then stop judging others, stop shaming others, stop making fun of others, and start loving people, believing the best about them, and look for the positive in people.

Don’t get me wrong when someone does something evil, wrong, hurtful, dangerous or illegal we have a responsibility to report it to the proper authorities. We have a right to put up boundaries and protect ourselves. We need to call out evil, hurtful sand harmful behavior. The truth is we can do that and still be kind and compassionate.

All people, no matter what color, where they came from, or what they look like, matter to God and therefore matter to me. I love people, but I don’t always agree with their beliefs, behavior, actions, words or values. That doesn’t mean they are less than me, just different than me.

If we really want to make the world a better place then it starts with our own character. It starts with all of us working on ourselves to get healthy emotionally, spiritually and relationally. It’s hard to do that on your own, so let your guard down and get help if you are struggling with damaging emotions like anger, jealously, greed, or pride. Having a personal relationship with Jesus is also a huge help, because He helps us to change, grow and become the person God designed us to be.

Racism only grows if you feed it. Hate needs fuel, and the world around us has plenty of fuel for hate. Love comes from God and grows as we understand who God is and who we are. Love grows as hurts are healed, relationships restored and forgiveness given.

I would love for racism and hate to end, but the truth is that this world we live in is not heaven, it’s flawed, broken and dysfunctional. While we live in this world there will continue to be racism and hate and many other evil things. But there is a better way and that is through faith in Jesus and embracing God’s love.

Lead with Love

We have an opportunity to make some significant changes in this world. The only way that can happen is if we lead with love. To do that each one of us needs to take personal responsibility for our small part of the world.

For me it starts with loving God and growing closer to Him. Then it’s loving other people starting with those closest to me. To love someone you have to take time for them; listen, encourage, pray, serve, forgive.

For people that are in leadership positions leading with love means you develop, serve, equip, encourage and empower those you lead. You care about each one and about helping them be successful. But it can’t stop there.

To make a long lasting change we need to reach outside of our small worlds and into the world around us. We need to look for ways we can love and serve those that are hurting, struggling, or stuck. There are so many great non profit organizations and churches that are doing good meaningful work. Find one and get involved, give your time by volunteering. Give your money to support the work. Give your prayers to help fight the spiritual battle.

It’s so easy to get lost in our own problems and struggles and convince ourselves we can’t make a difference. That is false! Right now you can make a difference, right now you can serve, right now you can give, right now you can pray, right now you can choose to love-even your enemies. Don’t get lost in politics, that is not the answer. Love is the answer and God is perfect love.

Eight Days of Hope and Grace Church are two places I support and serve. Don’t just think about doing something take a step today. Do something that makes you uncomfortable. The world need real people that love God and love people. If you want to talk about how you can make a difference I’d love to have a conversation with you. God bless and Lead On.