The E’s of Decision Making

4260399_300x300While the Scriptures give us a lot of direction for life, there are a lot of issues we face that don’t seem to have a direct scriptural response. In other words, the Bible seems silent. But in actuality, the Scriptures are not silent on these matters. Instead, the Bible gives Christians the liberty to make God-glorifying decisions based on their convictions and principles from God’s word.

As followers of Jesus, God desires us to reflect his character, conduct and commitments, yet each day we are faced with lots of choices that the Bible seems unclear on. In other words, what does the Bible say about the movies we watch, the music we listen to, and the activities we engage in. Well, below is a list of questions, based on the principles of God’s word that can help guide you when making choices, in what I call the grey areas of life:

  1. Expedience: Will it be spiritually profitable?
    “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything.  – 1 Cor. 6:12
  2. Edification: Will it build me up?
    “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive.  – I Cor. 10:23
  3. Excess: Will it slow me down in the race?
    Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. – Hebrews 12:1
  4. Enslavement: Will it bring me into bondage?
    I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything. – 1 Cor. 6:12
  5. Equivocation: Will it hypocritically cover my sin? Does it give me a license to sin?
    You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. – Galatians 5:13
  6. Encroachment: Will it violate my conscience?
    He who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin. – Romans 14:23
  7. Example: Will it strengthen and help other Christians by example?
    Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister. – Romans 14:13
  8. Evangelism: Will it lead others to Christ?
    Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God; just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of the many, that they may be saved. – 1 Cor. 10:32-33
  9. Emulation: Will it be consistent with Christ-likeness?
    Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did. – I John 2:6
  10. Exultation: Will it glorify God?
    So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.1 Corinthians 10:31
  • So what questions do you have? Run them through the principles above. And remember what is good for me, might not be good for you. So be careful not to judge, but hold true to your own convictions.
  • As a people charged with the task of being salt and light (Matthew 5:13–16), a “royal priesthood” called out of darkness and into light (1 Peter 2:9), we must consider how our choices contribute or detract from our calling.

A Thanksgiving Prayer

Thanksgiving IstanbulPraise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits—who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. Psalm 103:1-5

Dear heavenly Father, we join King David, on this Thanksgiving Day, in rehearsing just a few of the multiplied reasons why we love being your children—why we love being loved by you. By your Holy Spirit, free us over the course of these next several hours to abound in gratitude and overflow with thanksgiving, that we might offer you the heart-filled praise of which you alone are worthy.

Father, here are a just a few of the way-too-easy-to-forget benefits that you give us so richly and fully in Christ:

We praise you for being the God who forgives all of our sins. Because of what you’ve done for us in Jesus, all of our sins—past, present and future—sins by our words, thoughts and deeds, all of them have been forgiven. When we trusted Jesus, you didn’t give us a clean slate and a second chance at life; you gave us a new heart and your robed us in Jesus’ perfect righteousness. Hallelujah, for such a standing in grace!

We praise you for being the God who heals all our diseases. Everything about us is broken—everything about us bears the effects of sin and death, but you are the God who is making all things new through Jesus—all things. In this life, the healing journey has begun—a story with a guaranteed ending of whole-being health—in body, heart and soul. We will be healthy forever! Hallelujah, for such a living hope!

We praise you for being the God who redeems our lives from all kinds of “pits”—from the pits into which we have aimlessly fallen in life; from the ones into which we are thrown by our enemies; and from the ones into which we foolishly jump. Nothing will ever separate us from your sovereign and sufficient grace.  Hallelujah, your name is Redeemer!

We praise you for crowing us with love and compassion. You have taken our garland of guilt and shame and have crowned us with the victory of your beloved Son, Jesus. He has triumphed over sin and death for us. Hallelujah, your banner over us is love and your rejoicing over us is loud!

We praise you for satisfying our desires with good things—partially in this life, and fully in the life to come. You freely give us all things to enjoy, and to share with others. May that be evidenced today, as we gather as family and friends—all in need of your daily mercies and steadfast love. Hallelujah, for intending our joy and for renewing our strength! May everything within us bless you holy and grace-filled name! So very Amen we pray, with gratitude and hope, in Jesus’ name.

Courageous Conversations

This past weekend, I had the honor and privilege of speaking at SunHills Church, in El Dorado Hills. I spoke out of 2 Samuel 11, unpacking the story of David and Bathsheba and how this story could have had a different outcome, if some folks in the story, including David, would have had some courageous conversations. I invite you to have a listen…

Humility

9.1.ChristLikeHumility_610947592Ran across this great clip from Erwin McManus on humility from his book, Uprising. Thought it was worth a post.

Humility’s closest attribute is honesty. Humility doesn’t require us to be self-deprecating. Humility is not about having a low self image or poor self image. Humility is about self awareness. Is important to be self-aware in relationship to our gifts, talents, skills and intellect. But in regards to our spiritual health, it is far more essential that we be self-aware in the arena personal character. If you see yourself for who you are and embrace it honestly, humility is the natural result. God isn’t asking you to say something about yourself that isn’t true. God is asking that we take a good, long look in the mirror and see yourself for who we truly are, and then after that, to have the courage to ask for help.

Our humility allows God’s intervention. The word humble comes from humus, which is simply translated “earth” or “dirt.” Humility is about coming to grips with our humanity. The Scriptures describe a proud person as one who is “puffed up.” Pride is the determination to be seen as bigger than we are. When we are humble, we are down to earth. No energy is wasted on pretension. A humble man can be taken at face value. It is ironic that the imagery of being humble is one where we never lower ourselves. Humility sees nothing as beneath it in terms of servanthood. It is in this position that God finds delight in reversing the order. When we lower ourselves, God is eager to lift us up. Only for the humble is there a promise from God of being exalted. Only to the lowly will God leave a legacy of greatness.

How God Molds a Man

hands of a potter, creating an earthen jar on the circleLove this poem about how God molds a man to play the noblest part in His kingdom. There’s a lot of truth in these words…

When God wants to drill a man,
And thrill a man,
And skill a man
When God wants to mold a man
To play the noblest part;

When He yearns with all His heart
To create so great and bold a man
That all the world shall be amazed,
Watch His methods, watch His ways!

How He ruthlessly perfects
Whom He royally elects!
How He hammers him and hurts him,
And with mighty blows converts him

Into trial shapes of clay which
Only God understands;
While his tortured heart is crying
And he lifts beseeching hands!

How He bends but never breaks
When his good He undertakes;
How He uses whom He chooses,
And which every purpose fuses him;
By every act induces him
To try His splendor out-
God knows what He’s about.

– Anonymous

20 Quotes from Spiritual Leadership

indexSpiritual Leadership by J. Oswald Sanders is a literary classic and is acclaimed as one of the greatest leadership books in print today. Offering a depth and breadth of biblical wisdom and practical application, Spiritual Leadership get to the heart of the matter with an emphasis on the character and qualities of the leader, for leadership flows out of who we are, not just what we do.

Below are some of the memorable quotes from the book during my most recent reread…

  1. True greatness, true leadership, is found in giving yourself in service to others, not in coaxing or inducing others to serve you.
  2. Spiritual leaders are not elected, appointed, or created by synods or church assemblies. God alone makes them.
  3. The spiritual leader must be clothed “with humility” (1 Peter 5:5).
  4. Before we can conquer the world, we must first conquer the self.
  5. Many who aspire to leadership fail, because they have never learned to follow.
  6. A leader must be able to see the end results of the policies and methods he or she advocates. Responsible leadership always looks ahead to see how policies will affect future generations.
  7. The spiritual leader will not procrastinate when faced with a decision, nor vacillate after making it. To postpone decision is really to decide for the status quo.
  8. People who are skeptical of prayer’s validity and power are usually those who do not practice it seriously or fail to obey when God reveals His will. We cannot learn about praying except by praying. No philosophy has ever taught a soul to pray. The intellectual problems associated with prayer are met in the joy of answered prayer and closer fellowship to God.
  9. If a man is known by the company he keeps, so also his character is revealed in the books he reads.
  10. Life’s value is not its duration but its donation – not how long we live, but how fully and how well.
  11. Procrastination, the thief of time, is one of the devil’s most potent weapons for defrauding us of eternal heritage.
  12. Those who lead the church are marked by a willingness to give up personal preferences, to surrender legitimate and natural desires for the sake of God.
  13. The true leader is concerned primarily with the welfare of others, not with his own comfort or prestige. He shows sympathy for the problems of others, but his sympathy fortifies and stimulates, it does not soften or make weak. A spiritual leader will always direct the confidence of others to the Lord.
  14. Lowering standards is always a backward step and compromise nearly always requires it.
  15. More failures come from an excess of caution than from bold experiments with new ideas.
  16. God will defend the leaders he has chosen. He will honor, protect, and vindicate them. Leaders need not worry about defending their rights or their office.
  17. To succeed in getting things done through other leaders is the highest type of leadership.
  18. Indeed, no man, however gifted and devoted is indispensable to the work of the kingdom.
  19. Faith builds faith. Pessimism dismantles faith.
  20. Willingness to concede error and to defer to the judgment of one’s peers increases one’s influence rather than diminishes it.

Which quote from Sanders book challenges you or gets you thinking about leadership in a different way?

More Is Caught, Than Taught

Big Things Happen in Small GroupsA few days ago, I was giving some thought to a question posed by one of our small group leaders at Adventure. We were discussing the benefits of using written curriculum in a small group or just allowing the group to have a wide open discussion on a given topic or text. As we discussed both options, he asked, “What do you think is the more effective way to lead a group?” He’s what I said in response…

If we’re about making disciples and reproducing leaders, then it would make sense to model effective leadership and help people see just how easy it can be. Therefore, to multiply groups and leaders, we need to help people see that there are resources and tools to help them as they step out in faith. So, here are three great reasons why I believe its best to use curriculum:

  1. First, it keeps people on track and going in the same direction. While most studies tend to direct the conversation in a certain direction, a complaint of some, they do facilitate a process of discovery for the members of the group. Using curriculum also leads to deeper conversation around key points, eliminating rabbit trails.
  2. Secondly, using group curriculum leads to application. James 1:22 states, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” In other words, application, not information, is the goal of all Bible study. Without curriculum, most people tend to overlook this important step in the study of God’s Word. By using a well written curriculum, you will help people integrate truth with life.
  3. Finally, using curriculum is reproducible. By not using curriculum, people may think, “I could never do what they do” and therefore never aspire to lead. But when they see that they don’t need to be a Bible scholar or come up with their own questions, then they are more likely to give it a shot, because you have effectively modeled it for them.

If you want to help others become all they were created to be, model effective ministry before them. After all this was Jesus’ strategy, modeling a ministry marked by visible, memorable symbols and behaviors before his followers, because he understood the principle that “more is caught, than taught”! Jesus used everyday situations to teach life changing principles for the ultimate end of ushering in his Kingdom and we would be wise to follow his example. After all, big things happen in small groups.

Global Leadership Summit 2014 – Day 2

TGLS2014MountainBest of the best of day two of the Global Leadership Summit:

Anytime you find yourself stuck, stop and ask: “What crucial conversation are we not holding or not holding well?.” – @josephgrenny #GLS14

“If you don’t talk it out, you will act it out.” – @josephgrenny #GLS14

“Your job as a leader is to model, teach, coach, and measure crucial conversations in your organizations.”- @josephgrenny #GLS14

“You can tell a lot about the health of a team by identifying what is undiscussable.” – @josephgrenny #GLS14

“Crucial conversations are either a pit or a path in our organizations.” – @josephgrenny #GLS14

“The myth that we have to choose between telling the truth and keeping a friend is at the heart of dysfunction.” –@josephgrenny #GLS14

“Sometimes telling hard truth and telling it lovingly is the right thing to do.” – @ericaarielfox #GLS14

“Leaders are often truthful and not graceful, or graceful and not truthful.” – Don Flow #GLS14

“Leadership flows out of who we are, not just what we do.” – Don Flow #GLS14

“God doesn’t see the walls between church and business; we have built them.” – @CG_URA #GLS14

“Courage is an inner resolution to go forward despite obstacles.” – @PastorChoco #GLS14

“People have great respect for you when you respect their time.” – @tylerperry #GLS14

“I’ll pass over the qualified person with the wrong attitude for the person with the right attitude.” – @tylerperry #GLS14

“Rather than focus on your critics, focus on the people who are impacted by your work.” – @tylerperry #GLS14

“People may forget what I said or did, but I hope they won’t forget how I made them feel.”- @tylerperry #GLS14

“The doorposts to the Kingdom of God are humility and honor.” – @louiegiglio #GLS14

“The biggest idea of my life is that Jesus’ fame is the biggest fame in time and eternity.” – @louiegiglio #GLS14

Global Leadership Summit 2014 – Day 1

TGLS2014MountainEvery year since 2003, I have attended the Global Leadership Summit, with the exception of 2012. It’s been a shot in the arm for me, as I gear into the fall and take time to learn from some of the best leaders in the nation. It’s been my practice over the years to recap the day, either by blogging or writing down the leadership nuggets for the day. So here is my recap from Day One of the 2014 Global Leadership Summit:

“Every single decision you make as a leader has an effect on the spirit of those you lead.” — @BillHybels #GLS14

“Everyone wins when leaders get better.” — @BillHybels #GLS14

“You can live and lead small, live and lead safe, live and lead selfishly, or you can pursue a grander vision.” — @BillHybels #GLS14

“Humility enables us to learn from each other.” — @BillHybels #GLS14

“God treasures people even more than vision.” – @BillHybels #GLS14

“The highest call of leadership is to call out the potential of others.” – @CarlyFiorina #GLS14

“Bureaucracy crushes potential.” –– @CarlyFiorina #GLS14

“True leaders approach a task with a servant’s heart.” –– @CarlyFiorina #GLS14

“As a leader you’re in the business of giving people confidence.” –– @JeffImmelt #GLS14

“Solitude is a precious commodity we must restore in our organizations.” – @susancain #GLS14

“Your vocation can become a viable venue to advance the meaningful things of life.” – @bcloritts #GLS14

“First most dangerous mistake to make as a leader: becoming a leader for the wrong reason.” – @patricklencioni #GLS14

“Don’t fail to embrace your vulnerability.” – @patricklencioni #GLS14

“Jesus introduced humility as a virtue and in doing so he perfected leadership.” – @patricklencioni #GLS14

What was your favorite line or insight for the day?

The Early Heroes

indexThis is part of a series, celebrating those who have cheered me on in the race…

What motivates someone to invest in the life of a teenager? It certainly can’t be a paycheck, as teachers and youth pastors are some of the most underpaid workers in the marketplace. There has to be something of greater significance and purpose for these unsung heroes who give sacrificially to make an investment in the life of a teenager.

For those early “heroes” in my journey of faith, I believe it was their love for God and love for others that motivated them to make an investment in me. Now, at the time, I had no realization what they were doing, but through their investment of time and friendship, they served to lay a solid foundation of faith on which I was able to build upon in my life.

As a teenager, I was incredibly blessed to be part of one of the largest youth programs of its day, Campus After Dark. It had an incredible presence on the local high school campuses and an incredible bunch of youth interns and workers. The youth staff was fun, well liked and cool! We played wacky games, learned about God and served our community. And in my humble opinion, we had one of the best youth pastors in the nation, Mike Maples.

Through Campus After Dark, I learned about character, leadership and life. But it was the relationships that I formed that helped those spiritual truths become reality, as they lived the Christian life in front of me. Two of those stand outs were, Dennis Bennett and Dan McElroy. While I can’t pinpoint the first time I met these guys, they shaped my view of God and their encouragement helped me through the difficult teen years. They took a genuine interest in me. One that went beyond the confines of our youth program. They shared their struggles, their ambitions and what they were learning as a follower of Jesus. They also took me to ballgames, concerts and bought me pizza!

I remember one night when Dennis and I went to a San Francisco Giants game at Candlestick Park. It went extra innings and we got the “Croix de Candlestick” button at the conclusion of the game. As a teenager, that was pretty cool, especially given that it was a school night. Dennis and I also played racquetball together. Those moments of fun, allowed me to hear truth from Dennis, because I knew he wanted the best for me. So when the hard conversations came, I listened, especially when he spoke from his own experience.

It was Dan’s eclectic taste in music that connected us together. But his influence went far beyond music and I will never forget a talk we had right before I headed off to college. His “make it or break it” talk motivated me to go the distance in my Christian faith. In fact, since that talk, the number one hope for my life has been to “finish well” the race that God has called me to. But the immediate application of that talk, was to plug into a church and a Christian group at UC Santa Barbara as soon as I got there. That advice served me well in college, but Dan also made sure I stayed the course in college, often checking in with me, sending me money for pizza and praying for me behind the scenes.

So what’s the purpose in all this? First, it’s an expression of gratitude from a grateful heart and a way to say thanks to God and to those he put in my life. Secondly, it’s a reminder that the Christian life is one that is given away. It is meant to be shared with others. This was Jesus’ exhortation in Matthew 28:18-20 when he told us to “go and make disciples of all men” and Paul’s expression in 2 Timothy 2:2, when he told Timothy, “the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.” Finally, it’s my way of recalling God’s faithfulness in my life, as I recall His goodness in the land of the living.

So, Dan and Dennis, thank you for making a difference in my life! I am grateful for your influence and for being among the “cloud of witnesses” in my life.

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