Reflections on Turning 50

football-50Today I turn 50 years old. That’s right, the Big Five-O. Yep, it’s my birthday and I’m thrilled to be given the gift of turning 50. As i embark on this new decade of life, I’m filled with joy, gratitude and wonder. And instead of complaining, or making jokes about being over the hill, I’m celebrating the gift of reaching this milestone day.

These past 50 years have been an amazing ride for Bryan Hardwick, and I have the scars, age spots, wrinkles, gray hair as well as the AARP card to prove it. And at 50, I think I look pretty good and can probably still make your head spin on the dance floor. But, I have to admit, embracing this milestone day has been a journey for me. And as this day has approached, I have truly wondered if my best days are behind me or before me. Yet in recalling God’s faithfulness over these past 50 years, and in understanding God’s character and promises, I have come to embrace that the best days are truly ahead.

In considering the stories of the Bible, I learn that many men of the Bible experienced greater fruitfulness and blessing in their ministry in the second half of their life. Moses and Aaron were chosen to lead the Israelite’s out of Egyptian at the ages of 80 and 83. Joshua was given the charge of leading the conquest of Canaan, during the last thirty years of his life to which he lived to 110. Daniel was well over 80 when he served as one of three governors over the kingdom of Babylon and was thrown into the lion’s den. So until God takes us home, our mission is not done, and each moment is to be treasured until we are called home.

The last 50 years have been great ones…I have an incredible family who I love and who loves me. I have been blessed to spend the last 25 years of my life with this most amazing woman of God who loves me unconditionally and who is an incredible cook and mother to our son Zach. I have an amazing son, who is our miracle from heaven. He’s thriving in his freshman year at Rocklin High School and I am so encouraged by the young man he’s becoming. I have a career that I truly love! Yes, it’s complicated at times, especially over these past couple of years, but it is truly an honor to come alongside others to help them experience God in fresh ways. In addition, I have been blessed by some awesome friends and mentors who have walked through some amazing seasons with me. I could go on and on, but special thanks go out to Dan, Dave, Mike, JP, Todd, Brad and Michael for believing in me and making a difference in my life.

  • Yes, it’s been an amazing 50 years and by God’s grace I have learned to take myself less seriously, worry less, and to accept and even love my imperfections. To embrace that I am perfectly imperfect. That I am flawed, and that I make mistakes. Yep, I bump into walls and I stumble and fall. But I have learned that in embracing my imperfections, I embrace God’s love and grace in my life. And for this recovering perfectionist, this has been one of the greatest gifts I have experienced.
  • So, thank you God for the gift of another year! Today, I own my age and I wear it proudly. I am 50! WooHoo! And I’m praying that this will be the best year ever. I am filled with anticipation of what this next phase of my life will bring and I welcome it all.

Tweets from the 2016 Summit

2016 LSmtn_Blue_Logo_WebI have been attending the Willow Creek Leadership Summit for over almost 13 years straight! It’s one of my favorite conferences because it brings some of the best leaders from all over the nation for two days of great inspiration and information on the topic of leadership. I always leave challenged and inspired, and it gives me the just the jolt I need to start off a new ministry season as a leader in the church.

This year was no exception! And in keeping with some of my tradition, I am posting my Top 20 tweet worthy sayings…

An organization will only ever be as healthy as the top leader wants it to be. –

God never intended for our vocations to crowd out every other dimension of our life. –

Empowering leadership is not about leading from the front. Empowering leadership is about leading alongside. – Jossy Chacko

Don’t allow earthly practicalities to cause you to lose sight of the heavenly possibilities. – Jossy Chacko

People who are workaholics tend to have a piece missing in them that they are trying to replace with work. –

There is a thin line in leadership that is very easy to pass between motivating people and manipulating people. –

People don’t want to follow someone who doesn’t care about them. –

People have uphill hopes, but they have downhill habits. The only way to break a downhill habit is to get intentional.

We allow people to put a period, where God put a comma. –

Jesus spent more time with the 12 than the 5,000. –

Pain is a gift that draws us to an area where we didn’t know there was a problem. –

At every age, at every stage, you can be fruitful. Reimagine yourself. –

A universal blind spot with “Type A” leaders is self-reflection. –

Connectedness increases your capacity. –

If it’s lonely at the top, you’re doing leadership wrong. –

Love is something you receive, as you practice the sacred risky act of being exactly who you are. –

Love is never found in the hustle. –

You manage things, you lead people. –

A leader who stops learning, stops leading. –

The American Dream is to have it all, but the Kingdom of God is about losing it all. –

What was your favorite tweetable moment?

Christian Athleticism & The Olympics

An Edited Repost from August 1, 2012

If you are like most American’s r2016_1ight now, you’re probably a little sleep deprived from watching the Olympic coverage! With so many televised options, you can literally watch Olympic coverage 24-hours a day! It’s amazing to see these athletes, some of whom are just teenagers, perform at the highest level of competition! When I was 17, I sure wasn’t preparing to fly to Rio! I was just hoping that I didn’t blow the engine in my 1967 Volkswagen Bug!

What I’m struck by is the sheer amount of perseverance and dedication these Olympic athletes possess. Countless hours of practice, a myriad of sacrifices and an incredible amount of strength & grit got them to the Rio games. While they make it look easy, they put in years of hard work, for a single event that will, at best, last for only a few minutes!

The games teach us the value of self-control, discipline, training and adherence to principle. And these athletes make us shake our heads in disbelief at the strength, skill and determination of which human beings are capable.

In 1 Corinthians 9:27, Paul writes, “I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified” (NLT). In considering this verse, I believe that the Apostle Paul knew and understood something that many of us contemporary Christians miss: Success in the Christian life requires training, conditioning and focused effort. There is a spiritual athleticism required. Learning to trust God and live the Christian life requires training, just like gymnastics and swimming.

Watching the Olympics has once again inspired me to give my all for Jesus! After all, lazy Christians, like lazy athletes, don’t win. What’s more, they don’t even have much fun!

Effective Leaders Build Trust

1901ed3The heart of a great relationship is trust. It’s also the first, and most critical piece for building strong teams. Lately I have been giving a lot of consideration to this topic and I have come to the conclusion that trust is empowering. It enables me to be more. It opens me up to grow and learn. It allows me to collaborate, gain feedback and do better work. It allows me to be human. And it allows me to develop significant relationships with others.

However, I have to admit, trusting others is not something that comes natural to me. So I have been giving consideration to the factors that allow trust to flourish within me, and came up with this list of how leaders can build trust with others.

In a nutshell, leaders who build trust with others are…

  1. Vulnerable – As a leader, they model vulnerability. Usually they are the first to “open up” and extend trust to others. As Ken Blanchard says, “vulnerability…engenders trust.” The best leaders are vulnerable, not invincible.
  2. Self-aware – Leaders who establish trust with others pay attention to their words and actions. They don’t commit what they can’t control, make promises they can’t keep, or fail to own their mistakes or shortcomings.
  3. Caring – They operate with a compassionate heart. They see people as individuals, not as someone who helps them look good or serves their agenda.
  4. Encouraging – They bring out the best in others, help them apply and develop their strengths and reach their goals. They speak highly of you in front of others and help provide challenges and opportunities to help you go where you want to go.
  5. Listeners – Leaders who build trust don’t listen so they can talk; they listen so they can learn. By withholding their judgment, being present, and engaging real dialogue, they embrace differences, create openness, and facilitate connection.

I recently had lunch with a leader who modeled all these characteristics and I found it so refreshing. And it inspired me to be a better leader myself. At its simplest, trust is a catalyst for our organizations and businesses to be more: more nimble, more efficient, more effective. It’s like oxygen for a successful team or a thriving relationship and one simply can’t exist without it.

10 Common Mistakes in Developing a Ministry Plan

blue_compass_square-300x300Our church is getting ready to launch a big groups initiative this fall and it’s got me thinking about strategies and goals. Leaders always set out with the best intentions, but if we aren’t careful, we’ll find your best intentions have led us nowhere. So as you make your ministry plans, here are ten common mistakes leaders make in writing ministry plans. Hopefully these will provide you with more clarity and success in getting the most out of the ministry plan process:

  1. Either not reflecting or not including the standards of excellence in your ministry plan. Be specific.
  2. Only putting new programs, activities, and initiatives in your ministry plan and not including or building on existing programs.
  3. Placing goals and initiatives in only one area that definitely has overlap in one or more areas. If it is written in one area and applies to another, make a note of it.
  4. Developing programs, goals, and initiatives that are not measurable or quantifiable.
  5. Programs, goals, and initiatives that are not obtainable. Be realistic and honest. Use what you accomplished last year as a baseline and build from that.
  6. The leadership team of a particular ministry is not involved in the planning process and implementation of the ministry plan. Share your plan with your leaders. Get their buy in.
  7. Seeing the ministry planning process as an administrative task rather than a spiritual process. Pray and listen for God to speak to you and the leaders involved with you.
  8. Thinking that once the ministry plan is finished, it can be set aside rather than used as a fluid document. It should be used with your leaders and adjusted and “tuned up” as you minister through the year.
  9. Looking for ways to “cheat” the process, instead of allowing the process to help your ministry change and get better each year.
  10. Not interacting with your team or supervisor. They are a resource for you when you have problems or questions in the ministry planning process.

The Power of Praise

worshipWhen I was on the Northstar Project with Cru during the summers of ’85 & ’86, I learned a children’s worship song, that we were encouraged to sing when times got tough during our missionary efforts in the former Soviet Union. The lyrics were so simple, but every time I sang them, I sensed the enemy flee. The song, It’s Amazing What Praising Can Do, simply went like this:

It’s amazing what praising can do,
Hallelujah, Hallelujah.
It’s amazing what praising can do,
I don’t worry when things go wrong,
Jesus fills my heart with a song.
It’s amazing what praising can do,

In Psalm 89:15 , the psalmist declares, “Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim You, who walk in the light of Your presence, O Lord.” In this passage, we discover that there is power in praise. And my experience tells me this is true for when I have personally made the decision to fix my eyes on God, and give Him praise, no matter what’s staring me in the face, I begin to experience the release of those struggles over me.

I have been thinking about the power of praise today, and in looking at the Scriptures, here are some reasons I have found to praise God…

Praising God produces a revived and rejoicing heart when we are downcast and discouraged.

Notice that praising God is a choice we make and how praising God lifts our souls in Psalm 63:1-4, “O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek You; my soul thirsts for You, my body longs for You, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. I have seen You in the sanctuary and beheld Your power and Your glory. Because Your love is better than life, my lips will glorify You. I will praise You as long as I live, and in Your name I will lift up my hands. My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise You.”

Praising God raises an awareness of how we have fallen short, and leads us to confess, repent, and appropriate His forgiveness.

In Isaiah 6:1-5 we read that, “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above Him were seraphs, each with six wings: with two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of His glory.” At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”

Praising generates triumphant faith.

One of the most striking illustrations of this is found in 2 Chronicles 20. King Jehoshaphat and Judea are about to be attacked by their enemies. Jehoshaphat calls the people to prayer and fasting to seek the Lord regarding how they should respond. The Lord tells them not to worry because the battle isn’t theirs but His. He gives them the battle plan and assures them of His presence and deliverance. Jehoshaphat then does something incredible: he appoints a choir to go ahead of the army, singing and praising the Lord for His holiness. Jehoshaphat demonstrated great faith in God’s plan by appointing a choir to lead His army into battle. In an awesome demonstration of great faith, they marched off singing, praising, and thanking the Lord for His enduring love. And here is what happened as a result: As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated (2 Chronicles 20:22).

Praise invites His presence.

God dwells close to us when we praise Him. He lives there. He looks for it.  As it says in Psalm 22:3, God “inhabits the praises of His people.”

As Christ followers we have a choice every day…To live in the worry and stress of our self-absorbed, fast track world. Or, we can ask God to help us take our eyes off all that may be swirling around us and to look up to Him, the One who holds it all together! And as the classic hymn goes, when we do, we will see that “the things of Earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.”

God longs for us to know the power of His presence. He desires to bless us more than we could imagine. His Spirit urges us onward, calling us closer. And in response to His invitation, may we open our mouths and sing, for its amazing what praising can do!

God Uses Broken People

5180924ce78db2ca9c21fd153be59021I ran across this devotion that my wife Jennifer wrote a few years ago and felt it appropriate to share in light of some recent posts and conversations. I love her wisdom and heart on this…

We all have something to offer someone. We all have a story, past experiences, successes and failures that God could use to strengthen someone else.

During the Passover Celebration, Jesus was teaching and exhorting his disciples one last time before his death. He speaks of his suffering, his betrayal and the life of service that was ahead of them. Then Jesus says to Peter “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift each of you like wheat.  But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail. So when you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers.”  Luke 22:31-32 (NLT)

I was blessed by Jesus’ words to Peter. Maybe not the “Satan has asked to sift each of you like wheat” part, but the remaining words in these verses. First, I love that Jesus prayed for Peter. Second, I find it hopeful that Jesus used the word “when” and not “if” you repent. And finally, I love Jesus’ exhortation to Peter to strengthen the brothers.

Jesus told Peter that his faith was to be tested and a few minutes later Jesus told Peter that he would deny Him three times.  “But Jesus said, ‘Peter, let me tell you something. Before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me.”  Luke 22:34  And we know how this part of the story ends… “At that moment the Lord turned and looked at Peter. Suddenly, the Lord’s words flashed through Peter’s mind: “Before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me.  And he went outside and wept bitterly.”  Luke 22:61-62

We see here in Luke 22 and other portions of Scripture that Peter really blows it, but Jesus doesn’t condemn him or release him from his future ministry opportunities. He isn’t sidelined for a bad choice or a season of bad choices. Instead, Jesus said “so when you repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers.” Jesus knew that Peter would deny him, he also knew that after he repented he would be better prepared to serve Him and serve His church.

God is our great redeemer and restorer. Just like God used Peter, failures at all, he can use our story, our times of rebellion, our desert seasons, our trials, and our victories to encourage and strengthen others. What a blessing it is to come alongside someone and encourage and strengthen them with the truths and lesson we learned from the Lord during a difficult or victorious season. God can use a willing individual’s different experience, negative or positive to strengthen others. So lets step up, shed the belief that we have to be perfect to serve God and start serving others.

Author Philip Yancey said in a magazine interview that “God doesn’t custom design Superman characters and plant them down here (to do His work). He deals with the talent pool available.” That’s us! The talent pool available. What a privilege to be used by God.

For further conversation about Peter’s life and ministry, click over to

Proud vs Broken People

3426007862_22eed8bdaeWhat kind of blessings does brokenness bring? Well, from the Scriptures we see that God draws near to the broken (Psalm 34:18). He lifts up those who are humbled (Psalm 147:6). We’re told that God stiff-arms the proud. He resists them (James 4:6). He keeps them at a distance, but He comes close to, even as the father of that prodigal son drew that repentant, broken son to his chest and embraced him, we find that our Heavenly Father draws near to the heart of those who are broken.

And while God draws near to broken, brokenness also brings an increased capacity for love and worship. Like the woman in Luke 7, she was able to love much because she had been forgiven much. I see in that woman an abandon in her relationship with Jesus that ought to inspire us.

In my previous post I referenced a talk from the National Staff Training of Cru back in 1995. It’s a powerful message that God is using in my own life again, some twenty years later, as I ask Him to search my heart and understand the message of Jesus in the Beatitudes when he says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3).

I invite you to have a listen and consider what God might be saying to you. For I believe that genuine brokenness leads to repentance. And genuine repentance leads to forgiveness. And forgiveness will produce a life of freedom from the bondage of sin.

Cultivating True Humility

IMG_5420In 1995, God used a message from Nancy Leigh DeMoss to bring about a spirit of true repentance at the National Staff Training of Campus Crusade for Christ, now called Cru. I had just left the staff of Cru two years earlier, but my friends were calling me to share that God was doing a mighty work at the training in Colorado and I couldn’t wait to listen to the message as it was made available to alumni. It challenged me 20 years ago, and today, I was reminded of this message and spent this evening listening to it again, as I asked God to search my heart and break my heart for the things that break His.

In the message, Nancy talks about the characteristics of pride, which are rooted in arrogance and insecurity versus true humility, which is rooted in authentic brokenness. In the message, she challenges the church to be broken before the Lord, for God wants to unleash his power through broken people.

Here are the differences she shares between proud and broken people. In reading these characteristics, let’s confess those characteristics of pride that God reveals in us and let’s ask Him to restore the corresponding quality of a broken, humble spirit within us.

Proud people focus on the failures of others.
Broken people are overwhelmed with a sense of their own spiritual need.

Proud people have a critical, fault-finding spirit; they look at everyone else’s faults with a microscope but their own with a telescope.
Broken people are compassionate; they can forgive much because they know how much they have been forgiven.

Proud people are self-righteous; they look down on others.
Broken people esteem all others better than themselves.

Proud people have an independent, self-sufficient spirit.
Broken people have a dependent spirit; they recognize their need for others.

Proud people have to prove that they are right.
Broken people are willing to yield the right to be right.

Proud people claim rights; they have a demanding spirit.
Broken people yield their rights; they have a meek spirit.

Proud people are self-protective of their time, their rights, and their reputation.
Broken people are self-denying.

Proud people desire to be served.
Broken people are motivated to serve others.

Proud people desire to be a success.
Broken people are motivated to be faithful and to make others a success.

Proud people desire self-advancement.
Broken people desire to promote others.

Proud people have a drive to be recognized and appreciated.
Broken people have a sense of their own unworthiness; they are thrilled that God would use them at all.

Proud people are wounded when others are promoted and they are overlooked.
Broken people are eager for others to get the credit; they rejoice when others are lifted up.

Proud people have a subconscious feeling, “This ministry/church is privileged to have me and my gifts”; they think of what they can do for God.
Broken people’s heart attitude is, “I don’t deserve to have a part in any ministry”; they know that they have nothing to offer God except the life of Jesus flowing through their broken lives.

Proud people feel confident in how much they know.
Broken people are humbled by how very much they have to learn.

Proud people are self-conscious.
Broken people are not concerned with self at all.

Proud people keep others at arms’ length.
Broken people are willing to risk getting close to others and to take risks of loving intimately.

Proud people are quick to blame others.
Broken people accept personal responsibility and can see where they are wrong in a situation.

Proud people are unapproachable or defensive when criticized.
Broken people receive criticism with a humble, open spirit.

Proud people are concerned with being respectable, with what others think; they work to protect their own image and reputation.
Broken people are concerned with being real; what matters to them is not what others think but what God knows; they are willing to die to their own reputation.

Proud people find it difficult to share their spiritual need with others.
Broken people are willing to be open and transparent with others as God directs.

Proud people want to be sure that no one finds out when they have sinned; their instinct is to cover up.
Broken people, once broken, don’t care who knows or who finds out; they are willing to be exposed because they have nothing to lose.

Proud people have a hard time saying, “I was wrong; will you please forgive me?”
Broken people are quick to admit failure and to seek forgiveness when necessary.

Proud people tend to deal in generalities when confessing sin.
Broken people are able to acknowledge specifics when confessing their sin.

Proud people are concerned about the consequences of their sin.
Broken people are grieved over the cause, the root of their sin.

Proud people are remorseful over their sin, sorry that they got found out or caught.
Broken people are truly, genuinely repentant over their sin, evidenced in the fact that they forsake that sin.

Proud people wait for the other to come and ask forgiveness when there is a misunderstanding or conflict in a relationship.
Broken people take the initiative to be reconciled when there is misunderstanding or conflict in relationships; they race to the cross; they see if they can get there first, no matter how wrong the other may have been.

Proud people compare themselves with others and feel worthy of honor.
Broken people compare themselves to the holiness of God and feel a desperate need for His mercy.

Proud people are blind to their true heart condition.
Broken people walk in the light.

Proud people don’t think they have anything to repent of.
Broken people realize they have need of a continual heart attitude of repentance.

Proud people don’t think they need revival, but they are sure that everyone else does.
Broken people continually sense their need for a fresh encounter with God and for a fresh filling of His Holy Spirit.

© Revive Our Hearts. By Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Facing Truth

638504242fac8a2292a25aa705cb69c6It was a fall day in October, many years ago, that I headed to Lake Tahoe for a personal retreat at my friends cabin in Tahoe! Upon arriving, I settled in and drew back the curtains, hoping for a splendid view, which did not disappoint. The beauty of the area greeted me as I breathed in the fresh air. I immediately knew that this was exactly what my soul needed.

Then to my surprise, not three feet away outside of my window, there was a small black bird…a small dead black bird. I recoiled as I was taken back from the sight. This dead bird was intruding my weekend, interrupting my landscape, reminding of realities better forgotten. I determined that I would remove it as soon as I finished unpacking, but as I began to walk away, I realized that if I merely moved a few steps back, that I couldn’t see the bird anymore. And I thought for a moment. “what if I could simply ignore that dead bird all weekend?”

As I entertained that thought, I pondered the reality of that in our lives. Isn’t that just like us humans, wanting to avoid the unpleasant realities of life? When something painful or unpleasant happens in our life, we simply deny it or refuse to look at it. Like my experience with the dead bird, we prefer to take a few steps back and see only what we want to see. Psychologists call it denial. And for many of us, we would much rather take few steps back and ignore what’s really happening, than deal with reality. But unfortunately, that propensity doesn’t help us to grow or reflect more of Christ’s character, conduct and commitments.

As I look at the life of Jesus, He never refused to look at his pain or disappointment. In reading the Scriptures, I see that

* He acknowledged Himself drained of personal energy as He ministered to the sick
* He cried at the untimely death of His friend Lazarus* Jesus cried out to His Father in the Garden of Gethsemane
* He voiced disappointment at His disciples for not being able to pray with Him

Jesus could have stepped back three paces to ignore the dead birds in His life, but instead He embraced them, knowing that facing them leads us unexpectedly into life. Therefore, to enter into the abundant life God intended, we must confront our dead birds fearlessly.

God offers us a choice, we can either face pain or run from it. And through my years as a follower of Jesus, I have found that when I deny my pain and/or my sin, I simply keep myself in bondage to it. That’s because denial keeps me from accepting the gift of grace that God wants to bestow. In other words, wellness requires that we look honestly at our dead birds of pain and sin. Not to become bitter, but to become better. To learn to live as Jesus lived. To love as Jesus loved. After all, it’s the truth that will set us free.

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