In Africa, I’m An Old Man

I’m a senior citizen….at least for now, Seriously. It’s not a joke. I’m not trying to be funny. I’m only 46 years old, but for the next couple weeks, I’ll be considered “old as dirt”. And, it won’t be because the 20 something year olds traveling with me will be making fun of me either…even though they might. In fact, they may go through a mid-life crisis, because they’ll be considered middle-aged.

In case you missed yesterday’s post, I’m headed to Sierra Leone. The life expectancy there is only 43 years old. I couldn’t believe that when I first read it. I will literally be an old man there. It reminds me that life is relative to the context in which you live it sometimes. It also makes me sad for that country and more passionate about ministering to the people of Sierra Leone.

I know this also. Not only will I be even more intentional there; knowing that life is so short, perhaps it will shape how I view life here, because life is short in the United States too, isn’t it? Regardless of how long a person lives…

I would appreciate your prayers. It would be great to get home and see comments that you were praying for our group. I suspect that I will feel those prayers, so let me thank you for them now.

Have you ever been to Africa? Have you been on a mission trip? Did it change your life? Tell me about it…at least where you went.

Cast Your Bread Upon the Waters: Doing Good

Cast your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will find it again. Ecclesiastes 11:1

I had an interesting situation occur last Sunday after one of our services. I was greeting people as they left the service as I do every week and a man waited to speak with me. He has been attending our church about six months, but wanted to share with me what brought him to Grace. Apparently years ago, probably close to 15 years now, I was in the insurance business and he was in real estate. He said that every time he achieved any recognition as a realtor he would get an encouraging note from me. He was so encouraged each time that he began keeping up with me in my community involvement and my online activity (I’ve been attempting ministry online since 1996). He said he decided if I ever pastored a church he would attend. He only recently learned I was at Grace.

I don’t share that story to make myself look special. Honestly it was mostly marketing driven activity at that time. I share it because it illustrates a bigger principle; the one the verse shared at the beginning of this post illustrates The principle is that when we do good things; the things that invest in people, encourage them, make their life better, we may not see the immediate results of those actions. Sometimes it may not even seem to make a difference, but after many days…well…after many days only God knows the good that you and I may see.

It reminds me of a couple other principles from God’s word:

Always give yourself fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:58

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9

Do the good you know and see to do today. “Cast your bread upon the waters.” You may get no recognition for it. No one may even seen to care that you did…oh but one day…you’ll find that bread again…and when you do...that’s some good bread. Trust me!

Have you had a stories of doing good things and not hearing of it later?

I’d loved to read your story. It may encourage others…and me.

10 Confessions I Need to Make

Office scenes (prayer)

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. James 5:16

I look good online. I appear to be all the things I’m not. Here’s the truth you need to know:

I can be greedy…
I can be prideful…
I can be arrogant…
I can be stubborn…
I can be lustful…
I can be unforgiving…
I can be judgmental…
I can be egotistical…
I can be selfish….
I can be uncaring…

There’s my list…Thankful, as always, for His grace…

I don’t want my prayers hindered in any way because I’m pretending to be someone I’m not. I feel better letting you know who I really am some days.

What do you need to confess today?

An Omer is One-Tenth an Ephah

Yesterday I Tweeted this verse:

(An omer is one tenth of an ephah.) Exodus 16:36 NIV

I received some great replies, such as: “Thanks a lot!” and “That really helps!”

I was simply being silly, but truthfully, this has been one of my favorite verses over the years. I wrote a devotional about it at my Mustard Seed site in 1998!

Here is that devotional to explain:

Have you ever read a word or phrase in the Bible and it kind of caused you to ask….”Say what?” Well, that’s what the word “omer” did for me the first time I read it.

I had been eagerly reading the account of Moses and the Israelites on their journey to the promised land. God had provided for them each step of the way. Each morning they had their manna (bread), and in the evening they were provided quail. Now, I know that manna is a crisp and sweet tasting flaky bread type food, because the Bible tells me so.

But, what is an omer? What type of measurement is that? Moses, the writer of Exodus, tells us that each day the people were given an “omer” of manna. Okay, now just how much is that?

So, at the end of the 16th chapter, after continuing in my confusion, I read an answer: An omer is one tenth of an ephah! Well, of course it is…thank you very much! Problem solved.

Which begs another question………WHAT’S AN EPHAH?

But, you know, the answer I think lies more in what I don’t know than it does in what I do. You see, it doesn’t really matter! What matters is that the omer was just enough! It was all they needed for the day. No more…and no less!

And, you know what the best news of the day is? God’s word promises to His children today is that He will still provide for us our “omer”!

Now, I really don’t know how much that will be for you today….or for me…but I know this…… will be just enough!

Oh Lord, give us this day our daily bread…our omer!

Thank God for your omer today!

Personal Story: The Pastor I was Sent to Help

Years ago I was pastoring a church in a small town. I was new to the pastorate, having surrendered to full-time ministry only a short time before I came to this church. The church knew I had a master’s in counseling, so several members approached me one day and asked me if I would reach out to the pastor of another church in town. This pastor was decades older than me, but he had lost a son within the last year and was struggling with life.

I knew that this pastor frequented a local diner every morning, so I decided at least once a week that it would become my first stop each day. Over time, we formed a friendship, he began to trust me, and, most importantly, he began to share his broken heart with me. He became one of my dearest friends.

My pastor friend passed away about six months into our relationship. I still think of him and his absence with a heavy heart. I miss him. I will never forget the last months of our friendship and how he consistently told me that God had sent me to him. He was so appreciative of our time together.

He died unexpectedly and, though I had told him how much he meant to me, I never fully communicated to him what I grew to understand, perhaps because I didn’t fully process our relationship until months after he was gone. God confirmed some truths to me after his death:

I was sent to him…I believe that is true….but, equally true…he was sent to me…

My pastor friend, with his years of experience, helped me as a new pastor learn how to handle situations and deal with people in my church. He was a listening ear when things were not going as I thought they should go. He was an encourager to keep doing the things God had called me to do. He was iron sharpening my iron.

Looking back, God used him in my life perhaps far more than I was used in his.

Have you ever had a similar situation? Has the one you were sent to help ended up helping you? To whom could God be sending you today? Could it be that they need your help…and you need theirs?

Are you willing to get messy with people to help them…so that they can help you?

10 Questions with Leader Michael Hyatt – Thomas Nelson Publishers

Michael Hyatt
is one of the best leaders I know.   I have had the privilege of getting to know Michael personally over the last couple of years, having met him first through Twitter.  What I have come to understand is that Michael is the same online as he is in person.  When I first published this, Michael was the C.E.O. of (Thomas Nelson, the largest Christian publisher. He has since retired as C.E.O, but remains the company’s Chairman. He is extremely accessible and transparent through his online involvement, and he is a model husband and father. In addition, Michael is a true Kingdom-builder and loves Jesus passionately. When I think of a well-balanced leader, I think of Michael Hyatt.

You can follow Michael’s blog HERE and on Twitter HERE.

Here are 10 questions with leader Michael Hyatt:

When you were growing up, is this what you thought you would be doing vocationally?  If not, what did you want to do?

When I was in elementary school, I thought I wanted to be an aeronautical engineer. I was fascinated by space flight and science fiction. In the 9th grade, I started playing guitar. In fact, I majored in music for my first two years of college. I thought I would be a professional musician. However, when I become a Christian, I wanted to serve in full-time Christian ministry. In fact, I was planning to go to seminary, until I discovered the world of book publishing.

What’s the most different job you’ve had from what you are doing now and how did that job help you with what you are doing now?

I have worked in book publishing for my entire career, so I have to go back to high school to find a job that was really different. I sold cable television subscriptions door-to-door for a while. The challenge of making cold calls has served me well. In my job, I spend a lot of time doing things that I have never done before. Selling door-to-door taught me to overcome my fear and just step out in faith.

Who is one person, besides Christ, who most helped to shape your leadership and how did they help you?

I actually blogged about this recently. I would have to say Robert Wolgemuth, my former boss, business partner, and now close friend. He was such a consistent example to me. He really walked his talk in every area of his life. In particular, he modeled integrity, responsiveness, and gratitude. I find myself coming back to these character qualities again and again as the core of my own success.

Besides the Bible, what is one book that has most helped to shape your thought process in life and ministry?

This is a tough question for a book publisher to answer. I love so many different kinds of books. If I had to pick one, it would be For the Life of the World by Alexander Schmemann, an Eastern Orthodox seminary professor and priest. The premise of the book is that everything is sacramental. Every person you meet, every experience you have, manifests the presence of God—if you have the eyes to see it. This book shaped my worldview more than any other.

What are three words other people would use to describe your work style/ethic?

Energetic, prolific, and polished. (It feels awkward to say this, but I am trying to be objective.)

What is your greatest strength in leadership?

My ability to make complex ideas simple. I am obsessed with making things easier to understand and communicating them in ways that people can grasp and remember.

What is your greatest weakness in leadership?

Boredom. I love to build things. I hate to maintain them. I’m like a shark; I have to keep moving or I drown. This means I have a short attention span. My focus drifts if projects or meetings take too long.

What is the hardest thing you have to do in leadership?

Meet people and be sociable. Many people are surprised to learn that I am an extreme introvert. I love being with my family and close friends. But attending social functions where I don’t know people and have to be “on” is challenging. It depletes my energy and takes a toll emotionally. I have to be intentional about building space into my schedule to recharge.

What is one misconception about your position you think people in your organization may have?

That it must be great to be the CEO and call all the shots. My position is mostly about solving very difficult problems. The easy problems get solved before they get to me. Often times, I am having to chose between two bad options. This is where the stress comes in.

If you could give one piece of advise to young leaders from what you’ve learned by experience, what would it be?

You are not as smart as you think you are. Therefore, stay humble. You have more potential than you can possibly imagine. Therefore, remain faithful. Keep growing, and be patient. Your time will come.

Have you been impacted by the online presence of Michael Hyatt? Tell me about it.

Do you understand what Michael means when he talks about his Introversion?

Your Doubts are NOT Your Problem: Unbelief Is

We are in a new series at Grace Community Church called Outsiders, looking at some characters in the Bible who aren’t as well known as other characters, yet who made huge impacts to the Kingdom.  Yesterday I spoke about the disciple Thomas. Though some know him as Doubting Thomas, I prefer the title I have also heard by which I’ve also heard him referred, Thomas the Believer.  In this message, I address the bottom line that doubts are not the major problem for a believer, unbelief is.  Ultimately we must go from doubts to a solid foundation of faith; that God is who He says He is and will do what is best in our life.

If you wish to view this message, here it is in it’s entirety.

For an audio version of this message, click HERE.

I also shared that some people are more naturally wired to doubt (some may even say worry), because of their personality.  Would that describe you? Be honest!

How Will This Decision Impact Others?

If we want to build a healthy community and strong relationships, we have to learn to think beyond ourselves…

Let’s face it…we live in a very selfish society…

Scripture is clear, however, that the role of a believer is to consider the interest of others, even before we consider our own. Paul writes, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3…emphasis mine)

Before we make decisions, a good practice is to ask ourselves “How will this decision impact others?”

If I buy this…
If I control this…
If I say this…
If I allow this…
If I park here…
If I wear this…
If I post this…
If I ignore this…
If I pull out now…
If I ________(What else would you add?)…

Part of loving God and loving others is considering others interests as we make decisions.

In what ways do you need to think beyond yourself?

The Emotional Health of the Leader Impacts the Organization

Are you an empty leader?

Be honest.

It’s hard to lead others when you are getting your butt kicked. (Excuse the word, but I think it is needed here if that is how you are feeling.) When your world is crashing in around you, you’ll be less prepared to lead well.  When the stress and anxiety of your world is heavier than the strength you have to lead, you will find yourself treading backward more than forward.

Empty leaders begin to shut others out of decision making, for fear of being discovered as being empty.  Has that started happening to you?

The empty leader rarely sees much progress.  Is that your story these days?

The emotional health of a leader is of utmost importance to the health of the organization.

If you are an empty leader, get yourself together…rebuild your confidence, rediscover your purpose, renew your relationship with Christ, and then lead with everything you’ve got…the healthy side of you!

Please know that if you need a prayer, a suggestion, or some help thinking, that’s one of the purposes of this blog. If I can’t help, I’ll try to point you to someone who can.

Have you had times when you knew you were unhealthy emotionally while leading? What did you do to regain your health?

Have you worked for an unhealthy leader? How was (or is) the organization impacted?

When and How Did You Become Disciplined for Spiritual Growth?

Nate asked me an important question this weekend.  He asked, “When and how did you become disciplined in spiritual growth?”  That’s a great question.  I wish I could say I was most excellently disciplined, but I’m not…just disciplined.  I wonder though if some of you may be equal curious as to the answers to this question.

I first got serious about becoming a student of God’s Word and having daily time with Christ in my mid-twenties.  I wish it had happened earlier. I grew up in church, but it wasn’t until then that I really took my walk more serious than a Sunday routine.

As to how I disciplined myself, which may be the more important answer, that really has a two-part answer.

  • I developed a passion for spiritual growth. The bottom line for most of us is that we are only going to do those things we want to do.  For me, thanks to the encouragement of a pastor at the time, I gained a sincere desire to know Christ more; serious enough that I was willing to discipline myself to do it.
  • I found a system that worked for me. At first, I didn’t remember to tell Nate about this one, but it was an equally important part I believe in me becoming a self-learner.  Many people have a desire, but they never come up with the system that will accomplish the desire.  I found a system that fueled my passion, but also kept me disciplined enough to follow through each day.  I haven’t kept the same system I had then continually, but I know even today that without one I’m less likely to be disciplined in spiritual growth.  (I once wrote about that system HERE.)

There’s my answer to when and how I became disciplined in spiritual growth.  What’s your answer…or is this a question for which you still need to work on finding an answer?

I encourage you to start today!