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.

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.

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.

My Top 10 Spiritual Leadership Principles

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

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

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

Here are 10 principles that guide my leadership:

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

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

5 Qualities People Want in Their Leader

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thoughts on Character

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

What is character?

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

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

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

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

WHY is character important?

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

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