The End of an Era

Today I said goodbye to my faithful friend of 15 years! We shared 250,000 miles of memories along the road of life! Traveling the highways, byways and navigating through the seasons of life. I never named her. However, she was a faithful road warrior! I purchased her from Carmichael Honda just days before starting my job with DaySpring Cards back in 1997.

She was a faithful traveling companion. She traversed over 100,000 miles with me from Bakersfield to Eugene, OR and everywhere in between, while with DaySpring Cards. She kept me safe, as I was twice rear ended and once spun out on black ice in OR. In my transition from the road to vocational ministry, she transported me back and forth to seminary several days a week for over two years. She even transported some very important people in her prime, including NY Times bestselling author Henry Cloud and Dove Award Nominee and recording artist, Jason Gray.

With skyrocketing gas prices, she has been our go to car these last couple of years, offering the best miles per gallon, compared to our Dodge Durango! Even with her old age and high mileage, she was like the Energizer bunny, she just kept going and going. Despite the fender benders, and dents courtesy of Zach, I never had anything go wrong with her. And she still rolls pretty good, although she has lost a lot of her get up and go. The good news is that she’s not going to junk yard, instead she’ll be going back to Sacramento, the town she was adopted in, in order to become my nieces primary car.

So, what do you do when you had some a great experience with a Honda vehicle for 15 years? You buy another one! I think this time I will name her!

Tweetable Moments from the Summit

This year I opted to not attend the Global Leadership Summit, sponsored by Willow Creek! It was sort of a bittersweet decision, as I look forward to the spiritual jolt I get from the Summit, especially as I prepare to head into the fall. But after 10 straight years of attending, I decided to take a pass this year.

However, as a huge fan of the Summit, I have been reading the blogs, watching the Twitter feed and even got a live stream of one of the segments online. So while I wasn’t actually in attendance, I did manage to grab a few nuggets from this year’s Summit based on the wonders of modern technology! Here are a few of my notable quotes and take aways…

You are the most difficult person you will ever lead. – Bill Hybels

God didn’t make you a leader to respond to stuff. He made you a leader to move stuff ahead. – Bill Hybels

Leadership is about helping others see their own leadership qualities and potential. – Condoleeza Rice

The most important characteristic in a leader is irrepressible optimism. – Condoleeza Rice

When you’re in a position of authority, you need truth-tellers around you. – Condoleeza Rice

An organization is not truly great if it can’t be great without you. – Jim Collins

Authenticity trumps cool every time. – Craig Groeschel

Respect is earned, honor is given. – Craig Groeschel

Organizational health is the single greatest competitive advantage in business. – Patrick Lencioni

We are the biggest barrier to us experiencing success. – William Ury

Life is not measured in time, but in love, contribution and moments of grace. – Carly Fiorina

Never give yourself permission to avoid doing what is right. – Mario Vega

Leaders are not only responsible for their own actions, but for the influence they have over those they lead. – Mario Vega

It’s one thing to see a vision and another to be seized by one. – Bill Hybels

What was your favorite moment? Biggest take away?

Raising An Olympian

Last night America was inspired by the finesse and joy of Gabby Douglas’ performance that earned her the women’s all-around gymnastics gold medal! It was a moment of glory! However, that moment, wasn’t realized without a lot of sacrifice on Gabby’s part. “I just want people to know it took a lot,” she said. “It took a lot of hard days in the gym and determination, passion and drive. Gold medals are made out of your sweat, blood and tears, and effort in the gym every day.”

After taking gold, Gabby declared on national television, ‎”I give all the glory to God. It’s kind of a win-win situation. The glory goes up to Him & all the blessings fall down on me.”

Oh, and in case you didn’t notice, if you take the letters in her last name, they spell out USA GOLD! Way to represent Gabby! You made your nation proud.

Christian Athleticism & The Olympics

If you are like most American’s right 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 London! I was just hoping that I didn’t wreck 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 London 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!

A Grace Filled Response

In reading the headlines and social media threads over the controversy surrounding Chick-fil-A founder Dan Cathy’s comments, I was reminded of Bill Hybels loving and grace filled response to Starbucks founder Howard Schultz, who under pressure from a gay advocacy group, canceled his appearance at the Leadership Summit, just a few days before the event.

I encourage you to listen to Bill’s response, made in front of a global audience at last years Summit, for I believe his wise words can speak to the issues of our day and give us some great ideas on how we can lovingly respond…

Creating Margin

In reading the recent headlines, I believe that our society is suffering from a societal epidemic: overload! We’re exhausted and hurting, struggling to keep up with life. We feel distressed, but we’re not clear why. We’re besieged by anxiety and fatigue; and our relationships and bodies are suffering because of it. The flood of daily events seems beyond our control. The bottom line is that we are overloaded, and we’re living on the edge.

Today our stress levels are unprecedented and studies have reported that 80% of Americans need to reduce stress in their lives. Change, debt, hurry, noise and complexity all contribute. Because of a rapidly changing job market, we’re more insecure. Because of the breakdown of the family, we’re more alone.

This past month at SeaCoast Grace Church we talked about the need to create margin in our lives by honoring the Sabbath, creating moments of sanctuary with God, and subtracting the things that keep us distracted in our pursuit of him. Margin is the space that once existed between ourselves and our limits. Without margin, especially in the key areas of emotional energy, physical energy, time, and finances, any sense of well-being is unlikely.

In the past, margin was a normal part of people’s lives. They lived on farms. They had time to help a neighbor and attend social events. And they didn’t have all the shiny things that distract us from resting. Unfortunately, what was designed to make our lives simpler has only made it more complex. We’re dialed in 24/7 and have so much information at our fingertips. But, are we really better off?

So if you find that your emotional energy is gone, how do you get it back? Here are six things to consider:

  1. Cultivate social support systems –  Some people fill us, others drain us. We need to intentionally develop relationships that nurture us, with people who understand us and care about us.
  2. Get a pet – Pets are loyal and often affectionate—just the kind of things that increase our emotional reserves.
  3. Reconcile relationships – Broken relationships are huge emotional drains. Forgive and let go!
  4. Rest – Try to set aside time regularly to just “be still” and let God be God!
  5. Laugh – Nothings recharges my battery like a good laugh. Spend time with friends or doing things that make you laugh. Nothing like a good I Love Lucy episode for me!
  6. Create appropriate boundaries –  We need to be able to say “no” at times, so we can say “yes” to God’s best!

Waiting on God

Thoughts about waiting from Henry Blackaby…

Sometimes as you begin making adjustments, God will require that you wait on Him. This is not because God cannot keep up with you or that He does not know what to do next. God is interested in a love relationship with you. Your waiting on Him develops your absolute dependence on Him. Your waiting on Him assures that you will act on His timing and not your own.

While you wait, continue doing the last thing God told you to do. In waiting you are shifting the responsibility of the outcome to God – where it belongs. Then when God gives you specific guidance, He will do through you more in days and weeks than you could ever accomplish in years of labor. Waiting on Him is always worth the wait. His timing and His ways are always right. You must depend on Him to guide you in His way and in His timing to accomplish His purpose.

Here’s a great video from John Waller on the power of doing the right thing while you wait…

Experiencing God

I recently reread the classic book Experiencing God by Henry Blackaby about how to live a life of adventure with God by knowing and doing His will. I was first introduced to book in the early 1990’s, but the truths are timeless and it was a fresh remember to me of God’s invitation to join Him where he is already at work. Here are some of the stand out quotes from the book to peak your interest in reading it as well as to remind you of how God works:

• If you want to know God’s will, you must respond to His invitation to love Him wholeheartedly.
• “What is God’s will for my life?” is not the best question to ask. I think the right question is simply, “What is God’s will?”
• What God initiates, He completes.
• God speaks by the Holy Spirit through the Bible, prayer, circumstances, and the church to reveal Himself, His purposes, and His ways.
• The Holy Spirit reveals truth. Truth is not just some concept to be studied. Truth is a person.
• When God speaks to a person, revealing His plans and purpose, it will always cause a crisis of belief. What you believe about God will determine what you do and how you live.
• The kinds of assignments that God gives in the Bible are always God sized.
• The world comes to know God when they see God’s nature expressed through His activity.
• No one can sum up all God is able to accomplish through one solitary life, wholly yielded, adjusted and obedient to Him!

If you haven’t read this classic, I strongly encourage it.

Three Marks of Effective Leaders

Three marks of effective leaders…

  1. Effective leaders never lose sight of the ultimate goal! In looking at the ministry of Christ, Jesus’ objective was always clear. As Robert Coleman writes in his book Master Plan of Evangelism, “[Jesus’] life was ordered by his objective. Everything he did and said was part of the whole pattern. It had significance because it contributed to the ultimate purpose of his life in redeeming the world for God [Luke 19:10; Matthew 20:28]. This was the motivating vision governing his behavior and not for one moment did Jesus lose sight of his goal” (Coleman, p. 18). Jesus seized every opportunity for decisive action, but never lost sight of his ultimate objective to redeem people to Himself (Luke 2:49). Jesus knew and understood what his overall objective was, and ultimately conceived a plan that would not fail, by calling twelve men to himself who would in turn lead the multitudes and usher in a Kingdom.
  2. Effective leaders lead by example! This was by its very essence the leadership style of Christ, who called twelve men to a relationship with himself, and allowed them to simply follow him (John 1:39,43; Matthew 4:19). To Jesus “knowledge was gained by association before it was understood by explanation” (Coleman, p.39), and he gave increasingly more time to his disciples as his ministry was drawing near knowing that his disciples would be the ones who would in turn give this kind of personal attention to others. Jesus’ ministry was marked by visible, memorable symbols and behaviors, for Jesus understood the principle that “more is caught than taught”, therefore he used everyday situations to teach life changing principles for the ultimate end of ushering in his Kingdom.
  3. Effective leaders take care of their souls! In looking at the life and ministry of Jesus, it is clear from the scripture that Jesus maintained a healthy balance in his private life. As the scripture states in Luke 2:52, Jesus kept growing “in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” In other words, his life had balance, as he was committed to growing mentally, socially, physically, and spiritually. Also throughout his ministry, you often see Jesus seeking seclusion to commune with his father in prayer (Mark 1:35), setting a wonderful example to us, of the importance of taking care of yourself spiritually. This is especially important as all that we do in life needs to be the overflow of our relationship with God.

While Jesus could have been all things to all men, he choose rather to invest himself in a few who in turn could win the masses, and ultimately reach the world. And clearly he set an example for all of us to follow.

Day of God & American Independence

Back in 1986, I spent the 4th of July in the Soviet Union. I remember that day like yesterday! And for the last 26 years, I have reflected back on it with fond memories. You see, on that day, a Soviet college student named Alex and I met on the streets of Leningrad and struck up a conversation about America and God. Alex so wanted to be an American. He had heard so much about this land of freedom. And despite the Soviet propaganda of the time, he believed America was a land of hope.

Being that he wanted to be an American, I mentioned to Alex that on every 4th of July, America pauses to give thanks to God for their freedom and independence. We talked about how America’s freedom came with a sacrifice; and we eventually talked about the ultimate sacrifice Jesus made on behalf of everyone in the world, in order to know and experience freedom in Christ. It was a long conversation, one that led way into the morning hours. In fact, with the white nights of now St. Petersburg, we were completely unaware of how late it was and almost missed getting back over the bridge, in order to get back to our hotel for the night.

Before meeting Alex, he had never heard of God. But he was so intrigued by our conversation, especially after showing him our American currency, which says, “In God We Trust,” that he was willing to make certain sacrifices in order to engage in a conversation about spiritual things. That night as the taxi dropped us off at the hotel, Alex thanked us for spending the day with him. And as we parted ways, his last words to me where, “Today will always be known to me as the Day of God and American Independence!”

Twenty-six years later, I still remember my day with Alex and pause to pray for him. I don’t know if he ultimately got to America. I don’t know if he remembers our conversation. I don’t know what God is doing in his life. But God does. And I hope that one day in heaven, there will be a man named Alex who taps me on the shoulder and says, “I never forgot the Day of God and American Independence!”

Happy 4th of July!

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