Leadership

The Kingdom of God

In the Kingdom of God…

…a person is lifted up by humbling himself, not by exalting himself in the eyes of others.

…strength is found through weakness, not by being confident in your own abilities.

…fullness comes by becoming empty, not by running after pleasure.

…life is gained by losing it, not by looking out for “number one.”

…riches come by giving them away, not by storing them up.

…greatness comes by becoming a servant, not by seeking power and celebrity.

by Roy Lessin, DaySpring Cards

Flourishing in Community

God made you to flourish! And as God’s created handiwork, we were made to flourish with him and with others in order to produce blessing beyond ourselves. Therefore, in order to become God’s best version of ourselves, we need to be in community with others, specifically seeking to build and cling to these four important relationships in our lives:

  1. God… A healthy relationship with the Creator and a willingness to allow his Word to guide our actions, activities, and govern how we act towards others.
  2. Wise Counselors… A relationship with those who have already been where we are or who are a little further along on the journey; these are individuals you can bounce ideas off of, gain wisdom from and get perspective from.
  3. Close Friends… Everybody needs a few close friends they can laugh with, cry with, be sarcastic with, play golf with, surf or do whatever with.
  4. A Close Confidant… Either a spouse or a trusted friend who you not only enjoy being with, but who speaks truth into your life and with whom you feel safe enough to be real.

Having these sorts of relationships will not only help us run the race that God has called us to, but will also help us to experience joy and encouragement along the way. After all, life is truly better together.

31 Questions

Over the years, I have accumulated ideas and questions that have been helpful to me in transitioning casual conversations into spiritual ones. Here is that list of those conversation starters. Perhaps some of these might help you easily engage others in a conversation about faith…

  1. Where are you on your spiritual pilgrimage?
  2. Who is the most impressive person you have ever met?
  3. What single thing would you like to make absolutely certain you do (if at all possible) during your lifetime?
  4. What historical character, from any period of history, would you like to meet?
  5. What are you reading for leisure these days?
  6. How do you know you’ll go to heaven when you die?
  7. How are you growing personally?
  8. In your opinion, how does one become a Christian?
  9. How would you describe your father and his impact on your life?
  10. Do you have a mentor?  Tell me about his or her impact on your life?
  11. What do you think would probably surprise most people about you? Why?
  12. What is your greatest strength, and what are you doing to develop it?
  13. Why do people do what they do? What are the assumptions you make about people?
  14. How do you handle pressure?
  15. What do you consider to be the two major turning points in your life?
  16. What is something you consider to be a great personal success? Why?
  17. What is your key to maintaining balance in your life?
  18. What are two or three major truths upon which you base your decision-making?
  19. Tell me about two of your life long friends, and why they have had such an impact upon your life?
  20. How would you describe your mother, and her impact on your life?
  21. In your opinion, who is Jesus Christ?
  22. If you could know God personally, would you be interested?
  23. What have you found to be the best way of absorbing disappointment, rejection, distress and discouragement?
  24. If you could ask God any question, what would you ask?
  25. What is the most important thing in the world to you, and why?
  26. What gives your life value?
  27. Does your worldview, have an answer for why there is pain, suffering and evil in the world? If so, what is it?
  28. What is your basis for morality (what is right and wrong)?
  29. If you were to inherent a million dollars today, and couldn’t spend it on yourself, what would you do with it and why?
  30. Has anything ever happened to you, which was dramatic, personal or spectacular enough to have caused you to be certain there is a God who is both infinite and personally caring?
  31. What in your opinion is the meaning of life?

Refuel

Today I was talking with a pastor friend of mine about the need for Christian leaders to refuel themselves in ministry. Ministry responsibilities can be hard work, resulting in long hours and challenging days. In 1 Samuel 30:6, we read how “David strengthened himself in the LORD his God,” during an emotionally difficult season in his life. In looking at David’s example, it’s important that those who are in ministry, either vocationally or as a volunteer, take time to fill their tank, so that ministry is the overflow of an emotionally healthy self.

Over the years, I have gotten better about taking time to refresh, rejuvenate and renew. Each person rejuvenates differently, but here are six things I have found that fill my tank and inspire me in the race that God has called me to…

  1. Listening to music – Nothing uplifts my soul like an inspiring or upbeat song.
  2. Practicing spiritual disciplines – Time spent with Jesus in prayer and Bible reading gives me perspective, hope and principles for living.
  3. Reading – There’s something very inspirational to me about reading a good biography or Christian living book.
  4. Hanging out with inspiring people – I love to hang out with visionary leaders who want to impact the world as well as hear the amazing stories of God’s redemptive work in others lives.
  5. Enjoying hobbies – I love capturing the beauty of God’s creation through the lenses of a camera! And I marvel in the strategy behind a great baseball game.
  6. Getting away – Unplugging and getting out-of-town, even for a few days, clears my mind and helps me refocus on what’s really important in life.

By being a healthy leader, you motivate others to live a healthier life as well. So take time to refresh. In doing so, you give yourself and those you lead a great gift.

The Power of a Question

When’s the last time someone challenged you to step out of your comfort zone and to make a difference? Think about it! Seriously, when was the last time you pushed the limits of your comfort and you truly had to depend on God to do his wonders through you? Whether for personal gain or for God’s eternal glory, the idea of stepping out of our comfort zone is often met with excuses, rationalizations or indifference.

As a pastor and Christian leader, challenging men and women to follow God’s call to step out and serve others is part of what I do. I know that life is best lived in following God’s principles. And to speak into people’s lives and challenge them to become the person God designed them to be is a privilege. I absolutely love it when the light goes on and they get that God wants to use them to make a difference in our world.

Many years ago, I asked a college student to consider giving himself to serving God for one summer before giving the rest of his life to serving in the corporate world. It took a great deal of courage and faith, but that soon to be college graduate, believed that God was up to something and trusted him to overcome some big obstacles in order to spend the summer working with international students at UCLA. That summer God did something amazing in this young man’s life and today Steve Hong serves as the Fund Development Director for Epic, a ministry of Cru, helping other Asian Americans overcome their own obstacles and live radically for Jesus.

Recently Steve retold some of his story for a video to be used by Epic. In the video below, Steve talks about how he took baby steps to follow God’s leading in his life and what he saw God do! He shared the video link with the “disclaimer” that everything in the video is accurate, with the exception that the person who plays me is Asian. Had to laugh.

In watching the video, I am reminded of the power of a question! And I’m thankful to have made a difference in Steve’s life and for those who continue to challenge me to live in absolute surrender to God’s plan and purposes.

Change Your Life

It’s been said that the two biggest life change factors in your life are: 1) the people you hang out with; and 2) the books you read. God’s been reminding me lately that this is so true in my life, and that this truth has so many implications:

  1. This is why our personal time with God is so important. Spending time reading God’s word and in prayer can be the biggest catalyst for change in our lives. I am always at my best after spending time with Jesus!
  2. This is why we need to constantly assess who we’re hanging out with and make sure we’re rubbing shoulders with people who are wiser, smarter, more successful, and closer to God than we are. Lately I’ve been reminded that you can only take people only as far as you have been. So I’ve been seeking out those who are further along in the journey than I am and the result is that I’m being uniquely challenged in my leadership as well as in my walk with the Lord.
  3. This is why we need to be even more diligent and systematic in our personal reading and leadership development time. I read quite a bit, but not as much as I need to. Right now, I’m reading: Move by Greg Hawkins & Heaven by Randy Alcorn, but there are still plenty of unread books next to my bed that are begging to be cracked open. Leaders are readers.

So, who are you hanging out with? What are you reading? If you tell me the answers to those two questions, I’ll tell you what you’re becoming.

Rising from the Ashes

Last Tuesday morning, a fire erupted at the offices of Flood Church in San Diego, causing an estimated $1 million in damages to the building and to the churches resources just days away from the celebration of Easter! My buddy Matt Hammett is the Lead Pastor of Flood Church, a church he founded 12 years ago. Matt and I have been friends for over 20 years and as I watched this story unfold over Facebook and through the media, I have to say that I am proud to know this man and to see how this church triumphed in the face of adversity.

When I first found out about the news of the building on Tuesday, I immediately texted Matt and told him that I was confident that God would bring beauty from the ashes. Confident in God’s ability to do something wonderful in the midst of this loss, I was so encouraged to learn what God did over the last week.

Here’s a few of things that God did through his people:

  1. The sister of church of Flood, College Avenue Baptist Church, immediately opened up office space for Flood to take up temporary residency and to continue in its operations.
  2. The church had a tremendous outpouring of volunteer support and the Easter services went on without a hitch.
  3. Flood had it’s largest gathering in it’s 12 year history, with over 2,500 people celebrating Jesus’ resurrection.

In addition, as I read emails from Matt, watched video blogs, and read articles in the news, I was so encouraged by this churches priorities. The message was clear, the church is not about a building, it’s about God’s people. Their was no saddness in their message or tone. They weren’t living in the past. They were forward thinking. Even still prioritizing their plans to put together care packages and send financial resources to their church partner in Haiti this next weekend.

God truly does “give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair” (Isaiah 61:3). Way to go Flood Church!

Empty Promises

If you’re looking for a good book to read, I want to encourage you to read the newest book from Pete Wilson, Empty Promises: The Truth About You, Your Desires, and the Lies You’re Believing, which released yesterday. While I haven’t read it yet, I have read some of the reviews, watched the trailer and thoroughly enjoyed his last book, Plan B. Even American Idol contestant Colton Dixon tweeted yesterday about the book saying, “I’m reading Empty Promises right now on my Nook, it’s amazing. can’t put it down!”

Here’s what Pete Wilson has to say about it…

This book is incredibly important to me because I think one of the biggest problems in Christianity today is that we mainly focus on “sin management.” We want to edit behaviors instead of change hearts, but I think Jesus made it clear that he wasn’t interested in us spending our time trying to perfect external Christianity.

We want to pretend like God just wants to rearrange a little furniture in the house or maybe dust it up a bit. But if you look out the window there’s God with a wrecking ball. You see the issues we face in our life go down to the very foundation.

Sure we can tell you…don’t be greedy, don’t be self preoccupied, don’t be sexually promiscuous, don’t be power hungry, don’t be addicted to approval. But what if we asked what it is about your heart that makes you want to chase after those things?

This book is not just about sin. It’s about the sin beneath the sin. It’s about what’s fundamentally broken in the human heart and how all of that can be healed in and through the person of Jesus.

Sounds like transformational stuff! I can’t wait to read it and hopefully you will to. You can also check out this video trailer about the book as well.

Shame & Vulnerability

Vulnerability is something that church leaders have to lead the way in modeling. If church leaders aren’t willing to make themselves vulnerable, it’s hard to expect that those we lead, will feel the freedom to be vulnerable as well.

I was introduced to this talk from Brene Brown by my friends from the Small Group Network. In a poignant, funny talk at TED Houston, Brene shares a deep insight from her research, one that sent her on a personal quest to know herself as well as to understand humanity. It’s a great video for any leader who seeks to develop community and help others move beyond their shame and experience what God intended in our relationships with one another.

Being that this was a secular talk, there is a slight bit of offensive language. I hope you’re able to look past the offensive language to internalize the message that Brene gives.

Lessons from the Cross

One of the most prevailing approaches to modern life, if not the predominant one, is the desire to avoid suffering. So much of our lives are focused on trying to avoid physical and emotional difficulties that are ultimately inevitable. Evidence of this can be found in everything from the hundreds of types of pain relievers to the bogus advertisements for miraculous weight loss benefits without exercise.

Of course, this is understandable. Right? None of us seeks out opportunities to suffer. And none of us is immune from the temptation to avoid it. However, our inability to understand the inevitability and necessity of suffering has its costs. For our distaste of hardship and suffering makes it difficult to benefit from the fruit that it yields, especially when we emerge on the other side.

In speaking of Jesus, the writer of Hebrew states that, “Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him” (Hebrews 5:8, 9). Did you catch that? Jesus was made perfect in his sufferings! So, if God is going to complete his good work in us, who are we to think that our life will contradict that of the cross?

In considering the cross and the sufferings of Jesus, we are taught some very powerful lessons: That life is gained through death. That glory comes through humility. That success comes through faithfulness. Yep, all of this is contrary to what the world teaches us, which is why it’s so difficult for us to understand and accept.

This Easter, as we remember the cross, may Jesus’ example serve to remind us that there is a purpose in our suffering and that God understands our pain and struggles. In this life, we may never get the answers to our many questions. Like the disciples on the morning after the crucifixion, we don’t yet see the whole picture. But because of the resurrection we do have hope, and we can trust a God who understands.

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