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?

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.

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.

Basic Needs we all have…

God made us with needs, and God promised to meet those needs.

“And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19

Paul is telling us that God is willing and able to meet all of our needs. It also acknowledges that we all have needs as human beings

Neediness is a characteristic of our God-given identities.

Physical needs:

  • Food
  • Water
  • Sleep
  • Oxygen

Spiritual needs:

  • To experience God’s love
  • To experience God’s forgiveness
  • To experience God’s peace
  • Only God Moments

Here are the Top Ten Relational Needs:

  • Acceptance
  • Affection
  • Appreciation
  • Approval
  • Attention
  • Comfort
  • Encouragement
  • Respect
  • Security
  • Support

These needs are the same for anyone, no matter where your from, no matter how young or old you are.

It’s OK to have needs, it doesn’t mean your weak.  When we understand our needs, it humbles us and builds our character.

Only God and other people can meet our needs.  Why did God create us this way?

  1. Our neediness Encourages us to depend on God and look to him to meet our needs
  2. Our neediness encourages interdependence – We are not robots, we have feelings and emotions and our neediness requires us to have healthy human relationships. We are here to serve one another.
  3. Accepting the reality of our needs helps us to develop a heart filled with compassion for others
  4. Admitting our needs frees us to receive and give care.
  5. Meeting the needs of others expresses care and produces unity in the body of Christ

My question for you is this.  Of the top ten relational needs listed above, which three are most important to you and which three are most important to your spouse or significant person in your life?  If you can figure that out and then communicate clearly to each other about it, your relationship will begin to improve.  You can control whether or not you are meeting these needs with others, you cannot control whether others will meet your needs.  However, if you are loving and serving the other person the likelihood of them meeting your needs goes way up.  If you’re too needy, that pushes everyone away from you.  You have to first meet the needs of others and show that you can do it in a healthy way.

One of the ways we can love and serve other people is by being aware of these basic needs in the people we are loving and serving. When we are able to meet some of these needs in others they feel loved and served.

Divine Burden

Have you ever had something that really bothered you? Something that you just couldn’t stop thinking about? Maybe it kept you up at night or you just felt like you needed to do something about it. Maybe it was an injustice or human suffering. Maybe it was a burden to help other people in a certain area of life that they struggle with. Maybe it was a burden to share something you learned or where learning. Or maybe it was a burden to help people that were going through a difficult experience that you went through.


I call those divine burdens. It’s something that God brings into our lives that causes us to move in a divine direction to make a difference in this world. A man named Nehemiah had a divine burden, you can read his story in the Bible. Nehemiah had a burden to help his people rebuild the walls around their city that had been destroyed. He couldn’t stop thinking about it and felt compelled to do something.


So the question is, what do we do when we have a divine burden?

Nehemiah did these three simple things:

  1. He took it to God first. Nehemiah immediately started praying, fasting, and seeking God about this burden. That should be our first step with anything. Pray first, talk to God and listen for his direction.
  2. Next Nehemiah started small. The key was that he started. He prayed for God to give him favor with his boss, so he could leave and go to his city and work on rebuilding the walls. Next, he had a conversation with his boss and asked to have time off, then he asked for the resources and support he needed for the trip and to do the work. Then he packed his bags and made the trip. God usually doesn’t give us all the details, so think big but start small.
  3. Nehemiah kept taking the next step. He just continued to do whatever it took to keep moving forward to accomplish something Big for God. He packed up all the supplies and traveled 850 miles to the city. He rested for three days, then inspected the walls and city. Then he gathered the people and cast vision for building the wall. Then he organized the people in groups, and assigned them to an area of the wall to start rebuilding. He just kept taking the next step, and in 52 days they rebuilt the wall. 

So what is God prompting you to do? What is your divine burden? What do you need to start? What small thing can you do to get started? Maybe you already started, what’s your next step? Maybe you don’t have a divine burden, start praying, and ask God to give you one. 

We don’t need to have the faith to finish something, we need to have the faith to start, and then take the next step. God is faithful to help every step of the way. Who knows what’s on the other side of that first step in a divine direction. Don’t wait, get started today.

Three Words for 2020

Blessed, Satisfied and Successful. Those are words that most people would want to say about their lives.  When we are feeling blessed, satisfied and successful, we are most likely going to be happy and content.  However in order to achieve those things in our lives there needs to be some other qualities in our lives.  Here are three thoughts about how to be blessed, satisfied and successful:

  1. You must be broken in order to be blessed.  In order to receive God’s blessing in our lives, we often must go through a period of brokenness.  When we go through difficult times, it often brings us to our knees and our pride is stripped away.  This is when we remove the distractions and desperately seek God for help. When we allow God to break us, we can experience breakthroughs in our life.  When we stop pretending and get real with God by admitting our weakness and our dependence on Him, we can experience blessing on the other side. Brokenness is painful yet that pain can bring about a transformation that leads to blessing if we stay on the path God has for us.
  2. You must Surrender in order to be satisfied. Satisfaction comes when we surrender to God and allow Him to have control.  When we can stop trusting in ourselves and start trusting in Him, our level of peace and satisfaction will increase.  Surrender involves a decision to turn everything over to God. Everything includes our finances, our marriages, our friendships, our children, our work, our free time, our ministry, our relationships, our hobbies, our possessions, our attitudes, our emotions and our minds.
  3. You need to sacrifice in order to succeed. John Maxwell has a saying that you have to give up in order to go up.  Sacrifice is necessary to succeed in any area of life. In marriage, it takes sacrifice in order to love and serve your spouse.  Selfishness will destroy any relationship, so the person that is willing to sacrifice can find success and healthy relationships as a result.  To succeed in any area of life it takes sacrifice and hard work. When we bring God into the picture, He can give us the strength we need to sacrifice and humble ourselves in order to bring success.   Success is not about performing better, it’s about being willing to sacrifice in the short-term in order to be successful in the long-term.

God desires to have a personal, growing relationship with all people.  He is the one that can bring blessing into our lives. He is the one that can bring satisfaction and success.  Having a relationship with God does not mean we will have no problems, there will be problems and pain in our lives.  A relationship with God means that we have an all powerful, all knowing, loving heavenly father that will always be with us through every trial and triumph in our lives.

The Head turning Power of Compassion

“You are the light of the world.  A city on a hill cannot be hidden.”  Matthew 5:14

Jesus says that there is one force in this world that can shed light in a dark world.  That force is the church, which is made up of people. How brightly is your light shining?  Are you involved in activities that will cause someone to say what a Good God there is? Maybe your wattage is dim; does your bulb say 25w or 40w or does it say 150w?

Showing compassion to the world is what we are called to do.  We are not called to judge the world, but to love those in this world, just like Jesus did.  It is so easy to become hard in this world and to rationalize why we should not help those less fortunate.  However, when we show unconditional love to a broken world it gets peoples attention. Maybe it’s going on a short term mission trip or simply finding a way to serve your neighbor or that person that you know that is having a hard time. It can be taking the time to listen to them and then pray with them. Sending an encouraging note or text and being available. Compassion can come in many shapes and forms.

Here are three reasons why we should engage in acts of compassion:

  • When you let your light shine it will change you.

Most people look for happiness in the wrong things.  Looking to things like money, a new home, a new job, getting married or even getting out of a marriage.  Those things don’t bring us happiness. When people focus on others, they are happy, when people focus on themselves, they get depressed.  When you get to the end of your life the best memories will be of when you blessed the lives of others. When you start showing compassion to others, you start to change yourself and your outlook on life.

I recently took a group of people to Buffalo New York to love and serve a poor neighborhood with an organization called Eight Days of Hope. Hundreds of people came together and served people in need. We fixed up homes, but we also listened to the homeowners and prayed with them. We built a connection and a relationship. Trips like that will change your life.

  • You change the world one person at a time.

We all are among the richest people in the world.  Most people in this world don’t have anything. We don’t realize this until we go and see how other people live in other countries or other neighborhoods.  Showing compassion can start right here in our own backyards. When you start looking for people that need help and people that need encouragement, your eyes are opened to a whole new world.  Every day we come into contact with people that need our compassion. When was the last time you did an intentional act of kindness for someone? Who is your one person?

  • It does something to the heart of God – It blesses God.

Think about your own children, if they hurt you hurt.  Think about how much God loves His children and how much He must hurt when his children are struggling and hurting.  Jesus said, “Whatever you did for the least of these you did for me.” Have you turned any heads lately with your light?  

Most people start out with good intentions, but then get busy and preoccupied and forget about all the other people out there.  We forget that the local church is in the people saving and serving business. I believe that the local church is the hope of the world, and that together the church can make a huge impact in our communities and around the world. Let your light shine!

Why Most People Don’t Have What They Want

 

Cardiovascular problems cause thousands of deaths every day.  The main problem is neglect.  Every day there are thousands of divorces, often because of neglecting problems, and each other.  The relationships and things we neglect are damaged and deteriorate faster than the relationships and things we care for and pay attention to.

Think about your car.  If you never wash it and never get it serviced it won’t last very long.  It will start to break down and soon will quit running.  Or think about a garden that is neglected.  All kinds of weeds start to take over and they can choke out everything you planted.  Our bodies and our relationships are the same way.  If we neglect them they will stop working or weeds start to take over.

So what or who are you neglecting in your life?

The longer you neglect your health, your teeth, your weight, your finances, your marriage, your spouse, your character or your faith the worse it will get.

Why do we neglect things that are important in our lives?  That’s a big question, because most people want to be healthy, most people want a great marriage, most people want financial freedom, most people want a good reputation, most people want a closer relationship with God.  The problem is most people are not willing to do the basic principles that lead to health, growth and success in those areas of their lives.

It takes discipline to lose weight and get healthy, it takes discipline to work on your marriage and become a better person, it takes discipline to get out of debt and be generous, it takes discipline to grow in your faith and trust in God.

Our natural tendency is to do what’s comfortable and easy.  We avoid conflict, we avoid the scales and going to the doctor.  We eat our favorite foods and only think about exercising.  We avoid having that conversation or going to a trusted advisor for counsel.  In other words we neglect some of the things that are most important in our lives and stay busy with things that don’t improve those parts of our lives.  Many people simply hope it will get better or that the problem will just magically go away.

So what should a person do if they have areas of their lives that have been neglected and damaged?  Here are a few simple steps that can help get you back on track:

  1. Set some goals – We all have two choices, making a living or designing a life.  When you write down goals and review them often you are paying attention to parts of your life that you want to improve.  The first step in improving an area of your life is to pay attention to it.  The ultimate reason for setting goals is to keep us focused on the things that will bring out the person God created you to be.  To be a better man or woman, husband or wife, father or mother, son or daughter.  Setting goals is the first step toward being a better person.
  2. Ask for help – Trying to accomplish major changes in your life is very difficult without the help of others.  Whether it’s losing weight, reconciling a marriage, improving a relationship, transforming your financial condition or deepening your faith, find trustworthy people that can walk with you.  Find people that want something for you not something from you.  Look for people of integrity, honesty and character.  Remember that God created you and has a purpose for your life.  Talking to God and reading His words in Scripture can be a huge help in making changes in your life.
  3. Think long-term – Short-term fixes don’t work.  Cutting out carbs might help you lose some weight but long-term weight loss only happens if you change the way you eat and exercise for life.  The same in relationships, you can learn to do some nice things for each other but if you don’t address your core issues your right back in the same place a year later.  Address why you eat too much, address why you get so angry, address why you spend so much money.  That is the hard part of change, not just putting a bandage on the wound but cleaning it out and stitching it up.
  4. Don’t give up – The hard work is always worth it.  When you exercise on a regular basis you get sore and hurt for a while, but as your muscles and lungs and heart get stronger you feel so much better.  When you learn what your hot buttons are and how you defend yourself, then you can start working on changing your responses, which will improve your relationships.  Put in the hard work, face your fears, keep pushing to get better and don’t give up.

So if you’ve been neglecting areas of your life start making plans to change that today.  A year from now you will be glad you did.

 

Be Generous

F81ABBC8-9EB7-2769-67EBF258A0BD8E18It’s the most generous time of the year.  For many people Christmas time is a time to be generous with family, friends and even strangers.  It’s also the end of the year and people are thinking of year end giving.  I want to talk about generosity and what that really means.

As a follower of Jesus one of my desires is to be known as a generous person.  Jesus was very generous with his time, talent and treasure.  He taught many life-changing messages and stories about being generous.  He even gave his life for our sins.

Generosity is demonstrating the nature of God by wisely reinvesting the resources that He has entrusted to us.  There are several key traits that go into making someone generous.  Without these in our lives we cannot be truly generous.

  • Loving – It is not possible to have love without generosity, but it is possible to have generosity without love.  If you have the love of Christ in you, then generosity should flow out of you.  It should be a part of your nature to be generous and look for ways to give and serve others.  1 John 3:17 says “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need, but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?
  • Sowing – Generosity follows the law of the harvest.  The more generous we are in sowing, the greater will be our harvest in true riches. 2 Corinthians 9:6 says “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.
  • Honoring – Honor means “to place value upon.”  We are instructed in Ephesians 6:12 to honor our parents.  We honor civil authorities by paying taxes and following laws.  When we give to the poor, we honor the Lord and He promises to repay.  Proverbs 19:17 says “He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward him for what he has done.”  Generosity is not just giving, it is giving abundantly or joyfully.
  • Grace – It is through God’s grace that we are able to give and be generous, and that giving is an expression of the grace we have in Christ Jesus.
  • Stewardship – A steward is one who is entrusted with the assets of the master and is responsible to make wise investments with them.  A wise steward understands that the assets he has under his control do not belong to him and should be returned to the master with increase.  We are stewards of all the people, possessions, abilities and talents that God has blessed us with.

Generosity brings light into a dark world.  It makes people smile and feel good.  Generosity also draws us closer to God because it’s when we are most like Him.  Giving also reminds us that God owns it all and that He is the one that can give us more or take it all away.  Being generous also breaks the bondage of greed and overcomes the love of money.

Here are some simple steps to help you be more generous:

  • Dedicate everything to God – This includes all your money, time, possessions, strength, abilities, and relationships.  Truly acknowledge that God owns it all.  That takes a lot of pressure off of us.
  • Practice living simply – Try to simplify your life.  This could mean selling or giving away some of your stuff.  It might mean giving up some luxury items so that you can live at or below your income.  It may mean saying no to some things in order to say yes to being more generous.
  • Give as God directs – The goal of generosity is to demonstrate the love of God so that others will be drawn to Him.  Start being generous by doing random acts of kindness.  You can also start giving to your local church.  Consider giving a percentage of your income.  Start giving your time by volunteering at your church, in the community or at a non-profit.

So how generous are you?  Do you see God as the provider of all wealth?  Do you see yourself as a steward of God’s resources?  Do you honor God with a generous portion of all His increase in your life?  Are you living as frugally as you can so you have more to invest in God?

Generosity is the result of focusing on God’s riches rather than our resources.  CS Lewis said this “I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give.  I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare.”

Ask God for opportunities to be generous and see what happens.

Five Key Spiritual Habits

habits

We are all busy, there are many things competing for our time and energy.  Leadership can be defined as having influence in someone elses life.  If you have faith in Jesus Christ you are also a spiritual leader, because now you are an ambassador for God.  The influence we have with people, whether it’s at work, home, school or church is often a reflection on what daily habits we have.

Jesus gave us a great example of things we can do to stay focused on the right things and keep the right perspective on life.  It’s easy to drift and be consumed by the day to day activities of life unless we develop these essential habits.  So here are five things we can observe in the life of Jesus that can contribute to our development of faith, character and leadership.

  • Solitude – This is a challenging behavior because it’s countercultural.  It is a rare and often unsettling feeling to stop doing and just be.  Solitude is being completely alone with God away from all human contact for extended periods of time. It is in these times of solitude that we can seek to refill our spiritual fuel tank, hear from God, think clearly and honestly.  It helps us make better decisions, work through grief and pain and strengthen our spirit and resolve.
    • Jesus spent 40 days alone in the desert.
    • Before he chose the 12 disciples he spent the entire night alone praying and thinking.
    • When a close friend John the Baptist was killed he went off in a boat by himself.
    • After a great ministry event of feeding the five thousand he went up into the hills by himself.
  • Prayer – How’s your prayer life?  Prayer is essential for our spiritual and emotional well-being. Regular connection with God through prayer is what sustained Jesus while he was here on earth.  For us as leaders it’s vital to be able to talk with God about anything and everything.  Prayer is the way in which we plug into God’s power, receive God’s comfort and encouragement, vent our frustrations and pain and intercede for other people.  Prayer helps prepare us for the day by focusing on God first.  Praying with people and for people is a powerful leadership principle.  Praying for your spouse, family, friends, co-workers, employees, small group, boss and other leaders is an effective way to lead and love people.  When prayer becomes a habit it becomes part of our DNA and normal way of life.
  • Bible – It’s the greatest resource known to mankind.  It’s more than a how-to manual for life, it’s an intimate love letter written to you from your Heavenly Father.  I’m currently reading through the New Testament in 60 days.  I’m on day 51 and I love it and look forward to it.  There are five practical ways you can cultivate this habit of getting into God’s Word.
    • Hearing God’s Word – That is why it’s important to go to church, to hear God’s Word and messages about how to listen and obey and put it into practice.  You can also listen to the Bible through great Bible Apps like YouVersion.  Have your spouse or friend read the Bible out loud to you, not only will you get into God’s Word it will build that relationship with your spouse or friend.
    • Reading God’s Word – There are so many great translations of the Bible that it’s much easier to read the Bible today.  I use my Bible App on my phone a lot.  There are great reading plans for all parts of the Bible.  Don’t take on too much but be consistent.  Reading the Bible daily or most days will help you lead better, even if you don’t understand everything at first.  Great leaders read a lot and the Bible should be at the top of the list.
    • Study God’s Word – This is more than just reading, this is examining and looking into the meaning and application of God’s Word.  This is great to do with other people in a small group, but we also need times when we dig in on our own.  Using a study Bible is helpful because there are study notes that explain what the Scriptures are saying.
    • Memorize God’s Word – When was the last time you memorized something?  A great way to go deeper in God’s Word is to memorize it.  Every year I lead a group of men and one of the things we do is memorize Scripture together.  Jesus used Scripture to fight against the devil and we can do the same.  When you memorize it you can recall it later when you need courage for the fight.
    • Meditate on God’s Word – Memorizing Scripture puts it into your head, while meditating puts it into your heart.  It’s focusing on a verse or several verses over a period of time.  Writing it down, reading it out loud, emphasizing different words, personalizing it by putting your name in the verse, praying the verse to God.  It’s praying while your focus on that Scripture and asking God to reveal what he wants you to know or do.
  • Trusting God – Jesus completely trusted God with absolutely everything.  In our culture we tend to only rely on or trust ourselves.  Trusting others and God is a struggle for most people.  Pride & fear fuel this lack of trust in our lives.  Many people have also been hurt or let down by important people in their lives so it’s hard to trust again.  Only in our relationship with God can we trust for complete unconditional love.  Because of God’s incredible, never changing love for us He is trustworthy.  When we understand who God is and how much He loves us it changes our perspective on life, ourselves and the world around us.
  • Intimate Community – Jesus had the 12 men that he spent significant time with.  But he also had 3 men that he was even closer and more intimate with.  It was his inner circle, the ones he did life with and passed on the leadership of the church to.  It’s vital for leaders to have soul-filling relationships with people where you can give and receive.  A safe place to share your heart, your struggles and your victories.  We need to be around people that know us well enough to tell us the truth, challenge us, question us and love us.

I hope these are habits that become a normal part of your life.  I encourage you to take small steps toward applying these habits into your daily, weekly and monthly routines.  If you do it will transform your leadership and your relationships.