Obey Like Jesus

If ever there was a word that makes us cringe, it would be obedience. For a lot of folks, obedience has a negative connotation. Maybe it reminds you of your failures, your inability to measure up to some standard. Maybe it reminds you of someone in your past (a parent, or a pastor) who used religion to manipulate you.

As Parents you want your children to “obey” you. Not because they are afraid of you, but because they trust you. Lots of kids rebel against authority, especially their parents. They experiment on how far they can push it. They want to go their own way, even if you as the parent know better. Honestly many adults are also rebelling, doing their own thing and not obeying authority figures, especially God.

When it comes to obeying someone, it’s a lot easier to obey someone you trust and feel loved by. However, not everyone who insists on obedience does so out of love for us. Some people throw this word around like a hand grenade, and do a lot of damage in the name of God. Obedience is a power word. Usually when someone insists on our obedience it’s a “red flag.” Some people use this word to conceal their ambitions, hidden agenda, and selfishness. Emotionally abusive people love to use this word as they tread all over us like a doormat.

From a Biblical perspective, we’re always living in obedience to someone, or something. And so our obedience can be directed toward God, or it can be dislocated away from God.

“Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?” Romans 6:16

We can be mastered by sin just as readily as anything. So we obey our addictions. We obey our lusts. We obey our appetite for caffeine, alcohol, sugars, carbs.  We obey our materialistic impulses–the idol of bigger, better, faster, newer, shinier. We obey our tech impulses, new and better devices. Few masters are more ruthless than our desires.

At first our lusts isolate us from others. We withdrawal to do our thing. Then they demand greater commitment. Time, energy, resources, relationships, life. At first we try to manage them, until they finally consume us, destroying us in the end.

In Mark 7:8 Jesus observes how we “lay aside the commands of God to obey the traditions of men.”

We can identify as a certain denomination instead of a follower of Jesus. We obey the traditions we learned instead of the person we love, Jesus. Instead of serving God, sometimes we can become servants of our religious/political ideologies.

The masses didn’t crucify Jesus because he was the Son of God, or was obeying God. They killed him because he didn’t obey their traditions. In John 12:43 he describes how people “love human praise more than praise from God.” How many times have you felt conviction about some great thing God put on your heart, only to realize that your spouse, a boyfriend/ girlfriend, your kids, a friend was not on board, or disagreed with you? So instead of pressing forward, you relented, and gave in to the pressure. Our need for affirmation, and approval is so strong, we will cave rather than risk the disapproval of others. It’s like a law has been passed: “I have to be liked.” I need a Facebook thumbs up, a Twitter retweet, to have the validation I need in life. Do we obey men, or do we obey God?

Galatians 2:16 says, “…we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we might be made right with God because of our faith in Christ, not because we have obeyed the law. For no one will ever be made right with God by obeying the law” (NLT).

The Bible describes how people believe they are accepted by God by obeying all the laws God has given. So like the Rich Young Ruler, people try to establish their own righteousness before God. Our checklists become a source of pride for us, and they become a sort of litmus test by which we gauge other’s sincerity, spirituality, or faith. “I don’t ever miss church. I read my Bible. I’ve been baptized. I tithe. I volunteer. I go to Bible study. I go on missions trips. I care about orphans, widows, prisoners, the hungry, the sick. . . I, I, I…” Our selective, cherry-picked lists can give us a false sense of confidence before God.

God’s standard is Galatians 3:10, “For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.”

Who or what do you most obey? Jesus’ obedience wasn’t oriented around things… it was oriented to Father. Look at how Jesus obeyed. In John 8:28-30 Jesus says, “… I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me. “ And He who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him.”  

Philippians 2:8, “… being found in the appearance as a man, Jesus humbled himself by becoming obedient to death–even death on a cross!” 

To Obey Like Jesus: First, obedience is all about relationship. “Obedience or trusting obedience is God’s love language.” The “heart” of obedience is pleasing the Father in everything–i.e. in all we say and do. He is pleased when we obey because he knows that means we trust him. When we trust God we want to obey God, When we have a relationship with Jesus and are intimate with our Father God we don’t obey out of fear, it’s out of love. 2 John 1:6 says, “And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.” 1 John 5:3, “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.”

Second, grace is the basis for our relationship with God. We are saved through faith in Christ alone, by virtue of Christ’s sacrifice, His perfect righteousness, His blood. The best we can do is respond to God’s offer of mercy. We can confess Jesus as Lord. We can repent and turn to God. We can pledge our lives to him in baptism. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– not by works, so that no one can boast.” Faith in Jesus Christ leads to being born again spiritually. You are a new person and that new person begins to grow in love for Jesus. As that love grows, trust increases and obedience increases.

Third, obedience is God’s prescription for blessing. God’s commands carry a blessing, a promise, a reward. God’s promise to the children of Abraham is that if they obeyed God, it would go well for them, they would live a long life, and receive inheritance. If we sow obedience, we reap God’s very best in our lives. In Luke 11:28 Jesus says, “Blessed are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”  I even noticed in 1 John 3:22 that obedience makes our prayers more powerful. John says, “If our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him.”

Last, obedience is evidence our faith is alive, not dead. James says faith without works is DOA (James 2:17).  1 John 2:5-6 says, “But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus lived.”  If our faith is alive, real, vibrant, sincere, it will show itself in how we live. Obedience is the inevitable fruit of saving faith.  In the end, God judges our faith by every word spoken, and every deed done, whether in public or private.

Who will you obey?

Pray Like Jesus

There is one thing can make a difference in everything… and that one thing is your prayer life! When you and I pray powerful things happen, When we pray God listens, he moves, he works, he answers. Sometimes we see it and sometimes we don’t.

Jesus said ask and you shall receive and James wrote in the book of James you have not because you ask not. Prayer is not only powerful in your life, but in a very real sense prayer is prophetic in your life. What I mean is that what you are praying about is a real indicator of what is going to happen in your life. Where God is working and what will happen in the future. It all begins with prayer.

Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” And he said to them, “When you pray, say: “Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.”

Praying like Jesus is the source of a power filled life. “Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” Luke 11:1 ESV. I find it interesting that is what they asked Jesus to teach them. They have seen him do miracles, raise the dead, cast out demons, multiply the loaves and fish, teach with incredible wisdom and draw huge crowds. They didn’t ask him to teach them any of that. They wanted to know how to pray like him.

When Jesus was facing a big decision like who would be his 12 disciples he prayed. “In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God.” Luke 6:12 ESV

Praying like Jesus is the key to seeing God’s will done. “And he said to them, “When you pray, say: “Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come.” Luke 11:2 Jesus teaches us to not pray for our kingdom to come or our will to be done. He’s saying no, when we pray we are trusting God knows best, his will is best. God I want your way, your desire, what you think is best in my life or the people I’m praying for.

The hard part of this is that God’s timing is usually not our timing and his ways are not our ways. Often times as we pray God is also doing a work in us, he is shaping us and molding us and changing us. As we get closer to God the way we pray changes as we understand His ways better, and trust Him more.

God knows our motives, he knows our heart and when we are praying for things that are not good for us or maybe even hurtful to others, he knows he has work to do in us. It may be why he is saying no, or not answering your prayers. Keep on Asking – Keep on Seeking – Keep on Knocking! Don’t grow weary. Praying like Jesus means trusting that God will do what is best. Trust that God knows what is best for you and your situation. 

Forgive Like Jesus

How many of you have scars on your body? How many of you have ever felt judged? Maybe for the way you look or something you did in your past, or a decision you made. How many of you like being judged? Nobody raised their hand on that one.

How many of you have been hurt by someone? Maybe you were abused, rejected, made fun of or lied about you. Bullied? Maybe you were betrayed by a friend, or taken advantage of.

Being judged and being hurt can leave emotional scars in our lives. Those wounds stay with us and many times don’t heal right, they get infected and can spread and cause many other issues. Even when they heal properly they can still leave scars that remind us of what happened to us.

When Jesus was cornered and put in a bad situation, He didn’t lash out. Instead, Jesus bent down and wrote with His finger on the ground. He didn’t blurt out an answer. He didn’t get sarcastic. He didn’t get angry, He didn’t run or hide. He basically ignored them. One translation adds, “he acted as though he heard them not.” 

But they keep pressuring Jesus for an answer about the woman caught in adultery. Again look at how Jesus responds. He doesn’t make a long speech, or teach a deep lesson. He made a very simple statement. Jesus said, “Whoever is without sin, cast the first stone.” When every left, she forgave the woman and encouraged her to sin no more.

In Romans 2:1 Paul tells us “Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.”

To be like Jesus, we must learn to be quick to forgive, not quick to judge, or condemn. Paul tells us that “There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1

When you acknowledge that Jesus is Lord, he is quick to forgive and brings no condemnation or judgment. He wipes the slate clean.

Jesus also teaches us to pray for those who abuse us, in Luke 6:28 — “Bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” Praying for people we care about is easy. Praying for people we don’t know well is also fairly easy. Praying for someone who hurt us or someone we loved is hard.

The reason Jesus tells us to do this is because He knows that our enemies, those who have hurt us in any way, can only be forgiven with the help of God. Praying for them helps us to break through the pain and see a person. When we pray for those that hurt us it begins that process of spiritual strengthening that is needed to truly forgive a person.

You might start by simply saying be with them, or maybe help them, or do something in their lives. Then you can get to the point where you actually ask God to bless them, make something good happen in their lives. Then maybe even deeper where you start to pray for their salvation, or their healing from whatever hurts they have.

Your prayers for others may or may not change them, but it will always change you. Forgiveness is more about you than the other person. Unforgiveness does a lot of damage in our hearts. It stays inside us right on top to the hurt and that often leads to negative emotions like anger, bitterness, frustration, and even things like depression and anxiety. 

Forgive as you have been forgiven. Jesus quickly forgave you! The moment you put your faith in him, the moment you asked. He is saying we should forgive that way. Forgiveness does not mean you will forget. You can’t just erase those memories and the hurt. But once you are free and healing you don’t think about it as much and eventually it’s not something you think about at all.

Forgiveness is not a feeling it is a choice, on our own we will never feel like forgiving, but with God’s help we can choose to forgive. Choose to give grace, and forgive, and speak the truth in love while not judging people as part of living like Jesus.

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.

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.

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!

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.

Essential Church

I recently asked a question on Facebook “Do you consider the local church to be essential?” I realize that most of the responses were from people that would call themselves Christians and follow Jesus. The response was positive, but I also sensed a bit of confusion or frustration with the church.

I have been in full time ministry for 18 years. I understand that my perspective may be a bit different than someone that does not work for a church. However, I also was a church attender, volunteer, small group leader while working full time for several years before I went into full time ministry. I also grew frustrated and confused about church and stopped going for a period of time. God nudged me back to His church and completely transformed my life.

I see the value of the church, and have experienced it first hand and walked with hundreds of people that have been transformed through the local church. By local church I am talking about any church that believes in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and that is involved in a local community, whether small town or big city. A local church is a group of people that gather regularly to worship, pray, encourage each other, care for each other and love & serve other people.

The church is God’s instrument to proclaim and demonstrate the gospel to the world, and to usher in the kingdom of God. Jesus said in Mathew16:18 talking to Peter, “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”

The church belongs to Jesus, He is the head of the church and established the church. His plan was that through the gathering of believers that many lives would be transformed through the good news about what He did for us on the Cross and through His resurrection. Paul tells us in Ephesians 3:10 “His (Jesus’) intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms.”

The most essential thing in life is knowing God and believing in Jesus Christ. That is the most essential thing because we are all going to live forever somewhere, either in heaven with God, or separated from God in hell. The church was designed by God to spread the gospel about Jesus and what He did for every person still living.

Of course the church also does other things like care for the hurting, broken and lonely. The church is a place for people to find freedom, find healing, find hope, and then help others do the same. The people in a church are called to share the love of Jesus every day with the world around them. The church was not meant to be a small group to only cares for each other, but that connects with the world, to love and serve others. That is why I love being a part of the local church.

Where I am serving now at Grace Church, we have some God Dreams that I think describe the local church and how it should be functioning. Here are those God Dreams:

  1. We imagine a church where hurting, broken people can find and follow Jesus Christ the Healer.
  2. We imagine a church where every Christ follower is being trained and sent to our neighborhoods, schools, and workplaces to make and multiply disciples of Jesus Christ.
  3. We imagine a church that is building strong marriages, and healthy families in a world where divorce is common and families are fragmented.
  4. We imagine a church where every Christ follower is fully engaged by giving generously, connecting with other believers, and serving others with their spiritual gifts and talents.
  5. We imagine a church with a dream team of leaders at every level of ministry, inspiring, innovating, and taking kingdom risks to advance the churches mission of helping people, know God, Find Freedom, Discover their purpose and make a difference.
  6. We imagine a church where every Christ follower chooses to go on a short-term mission trip in the U.S, or globally to share and show the love of Christ.
  7. We imagine our church tithing 10% of our people to live among the unreached, to share the gospel, and to make disciples.
  8. We imagine our church launching multiple locations in our region as a way of making more disciples, reaching the unchurched, and expanding our gospel impact.
  9. We imagine our church launching multiple safe houses in strategic cities and countries, aimed at restoring hope to vulnerable women and children.
  10. We imagine a time when our Lead Pastor and his wife will be sent out from our church to equip, release, and coach church leaders and church planters domestically and globally.

That’s the kind of church that is essential. I’m so encouraged that there are thousands of churches like that all over the world. So let’s all do our part by being a part of a church like that. Get involved, get connected, find your purpose and make a difference.