7 Life Giving Statements Everyone Needs to Hear

Two People Having A Conversation

Words are powerful.

As leaders, the words we use make a difference. A huge difference.

I recently posted statements Jesus made that are life-giving.

As we seek to be like Him, we have an opportunity within our influence to be people-builders. Speak life-giving words.

For good and bad, my life has been greatly shaped by words shared with me.

I once had a pastor say, “Ron, you’re a giant killer!” He encouraged me to kill giants for the Kingdom of God. It changed the trajectory of my life.

Words are huge. Especially from someone we trust.

I’ll be honest. I’m not the best at it, but I try to pass on encouragement to younger leaders. And, others as I see opportunity.

Everyone needs encouragement.

It takes an intentional effort. I try to make it a personal discipline.

Here are 7 life-giving statements everyone needs to hear:

I’m praying for you!

You can do it!

I love you!

It’s going to be okay!

I believe in you!

I’m proud of you!

I’ve got your back!

So there you go. Words. Powerful words of encouragement.

Who could you add some life to today?

7 Life-Changing Questions of Jesus

Person Praying

Years ago I became fascinated with the questions of Jesus.

It occurred to me that if Jesus was asking a question it must be an important one.

In fact, depending on our response, they could be life-changing questions.

I realize that in the culture in which Jesus lived asking questions was a method of learning, but Jesus always knew the answers. He didn’t need to ask them. He IS the answer. What does He need to know?

His questions were to cause His listeners to think. And, they do.

Consider some of these 7 questions of Jesus.

“Do you believe that I am able to do this?” (Matthew 9:28)

“Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” (Matthew 8:26)

What do you think about the Christ?” (Matthew 22:42)

“Do you love me?” (John 21:17)

“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’, and not do what I tell you?” (Luke 6:46)

“What do you want me to do for you?” (Luke 18:41)

“Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3)

To which of these do you most need to consider your answer?

25 Life-Giving Statements Jesus Made

Woman Reading the Bible.

I only read one statement of Jesus, but I couldn’t go any further in my reading.

It was a statement I had read hundreds of times before, but this time it hit me differently. Deeper. More impacting.

I love when that happens.

I realized I often take a statement like that from Jesus for granted.

Jesus — the Son of God — said something. Something so profound, so life-giving, and yet it has become so familiar to me that I almost gloss over it when I read.

This time I stopped.

I stopped and  thought about the many other truths Jesus shared — often in a single sentence — which are life-changing.

Perhaps some of these will be meaningful to you.

Read through the list — memorize a few of them (you probably already have many of them.) But, don’t read them as familiar quotes that are usually written in red. Let them soak deep into your heart and mind. Let them add life to you. Be better with truth.

25 life-giving statements Jesus made:

“Take heart, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

“The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few” (Matthew 9:37)

“Go and learn what this means ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice'” (Matthew 9:13)

“Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven” (Matthew 9:2)

“Ask and it will be given to you…” (Matthew 7:7)

“If the Son has set you free you are free indeed” (John 8:36)

“For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:30)

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

“You are the light of the world” (Matthew 6:14)

“Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5)

“The greatest among you shall be your servant.” (Matthew 23:11)

“Take heart, it is I. Do not be afraid.” (Matthew 14:27)

“I am coming soon” (Revelation 22:7)

“With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26)

“If you love me you will obey what I command” (John 14:15)

“Your give them something to eat” (Mark 6:37)

“A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit” (Matthew 7:18)

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you” (Acts 1:8)

“This people honors me with their lips but their heart is far from me.” (Mark 7:6)

“You will be my witnesses” (Acts 1:8)

“Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink…” (Matthew 6:25)

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do to them” (Matthew 7:12)

“I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

“This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” (John 6:29)

“It is finished.” (John 19:30)

I realize some of these can be misunderstood if out of context, so feel free to read the context of each of them. But, the fact is these are things Jesus said.

The Son of God — who is God — said them. Spoke them. Revealed truth to us.

And, every word He said has life-changing value.

I wonder, if we really understood the magnitude of these words of Jesus and believed them — if they would change the way we lived our life? The confidence we have? The assurance in which we find hope?

Which of these do you most need to apply to your life today?

The sacred trust and responsibility of an online platform, and 5 ways to honor it

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I’ve been online since 1996. Those were dial-up days. I’ve learned a lot, made plenty of mistakes.  If you want to find typos — you’ve come to the right place.

Along the way, through consistency and patience, I’ve developed a small platform. Weekly — almost daily — I hear from people wanting my opinion because they somehow think I have something to offer. It’s so easy to clean up your game and appear to actually know something online. :)

Seriously, I’m honored people would care what I think. I don’t consider myself an expert by any means. I’m still learning new things everyday. But, for whatever reason, people’s boredom probably, last year my blog realized just a few numbers shy of 3,000,000 page views. Amazing.

It’s not huge. I have friends with far more. But, it’s huge for me. And, it’s humbling. Thank you if you’re one of those.

But, reflecting on that fact reminded me of something sobering. It’s true for bloggers, and Tweeters, and those who popularize Facebook and Instagram. (And any other social medium.)

There is a sacred trust and responsibility with a platform.

Whether online or because of your position — you have a platform. People look to you for insight. (That’s true for my ministry friends — regardless of your church size.)

And, it’s a platform we must honor. And protect. And use wisely.

Here are 5 ways to honor your online platform:

Think before posting. You already know you should — otherwise you wouldn’t have the platform you do now — but sometimes it’s hard isn’t it? Like everyone else, you have an opinion. You have immediate thoughts. Things happen about which you don’t agree. I get it. It happens to all of us. And, you just happen to have a platform to share them. You can move people’s opinions faster.

But, that’s a dangerous combination if misused. People are listening to you. They respect you. Take time to reflect before you react. You can cause a lot of damage quickly. Beware!

Don’t post when angry. Record the thought — then wait — go back when your emotions have calmed and see if you still feel the same way. Also, consider how your core audience will feel when they read what you post.

Make sure you’re not just another negative influence in their world. There’s enough of that elsewhere.

Use your platform for the good of others. That’s what the world really needs. More positive influences. More platforms making the world a better place to live. Helpful.

Above everything, use the platform with which you’ve been entrusted to make a positive difference. That’s how you honor it and show appreciation to those who have given you the platform. And, remember, you wouldn’t have a platform if people hadn’t honored you with it.

You are a leader. With a platform. You have influence. Use it wisely.

Don’t support every cause. You may legitimately care about every issue, but if you do, you’ll water down the impact you can have on the issues you care about most.

Do you remember the story about the little boy who cried wolf? And, then no one took him serious. Yea, that. It’s not quite the same thing — but the reaction will be similar.

The more you can streamline your platform the stronger that platform will be.

Speak about what you know — and not as much what you don’t. Find your niche. And don’t say it’s everything.

People are looking to you — because you have a platform — for wisdom and advice. It’s unfair, therefore, for you to build a platform, lead people to trust you, and then address issues about which you know very little. That misuses the privilege of your platform. Leave the subjects about which you know little to the people with platforms who are knowledgeable about the areas you are not.

And, when you do feel led to speak about something of which you’re not an expert — tell people up front that you’re not an expert. And, better yet, point to some people who you consider experts.

Limit self-promotion. The surest way to (eventually) lose your platform is to abuse it. You abuse it when you are only online for your own personal benefit. It may work for a while. Really well, in fact, but eventually it comes back to burn you. (Pride goes before destruction – Proverbs 16:18.)

When you only promote yourself. When you pretend to be bigger than you really are — or when you’re posting just to get more page views — you are building a platform on shaky ground.

There is nothing wrong with profiting from a platform. Be strategic. And, that will include promotion. But, always consider the interest of others — first. Build your platform for the good of others — first. If rewards come from that — consider that grace.

Those are a few of my thoughts. And, in full transparency, it’s a good reminder for me as well. Thank you for being one more page view. I’m honored. Seriously.

What tips do you have for protecting a platform?

10 Defining Words of a Stellar Leader

Stellar

Leadership is abuzz these days. Everyone is talking about it. I’m not the only blog — or certainly not the best blog — that addresses leadership frequently.

Yet, as much as it’s in our conversations and thought process, it appears most organizations and churches are consistently looking for new leaders. In my conversations with other churches, people want to know how to find, attract, and train leaders.

Apparently it is far easier to talk about it — even perhaps easier to call oneself a leader — than it is to actually be a leader.

Perhaps we need to do a better job distinguishing what leadership actually means. Defining leadership.

Even with an advanced degree in leadership, I can tell you experts who “schooled” me didn’t always agree on the definition of leadership. Perhaps, even more, we need to better understand what makes up great leadership — even more than add a definition in which we may not all agree.

Additionally, I almost wonder if one reason we have such a hard time defining leadership is because there are actually levels of leadership. There could be the kind anyone can do. Everyone is a leader at some level. If leadership is truly “influence”, then all of us are leaders in some area of life.

And, then, maybe there is something even more defined — simply for discussion I’ll use a term —

Stellar Leadership

The kind of leadership the truly great leaders provide.

Stellar means: Pertaining to a preeminent performer — or — outstanding or immense.

Isn’t this the kind of leadership we are all seeking?

Stellar leadership?

I am still a leader in training. Not sure when I’ll “get there”, but I know I’m not looking to be an average leader. I want to be a stellar leader someday. One who is outstanding or immense in my profession.

With that in mind, here are 10 definitions I think we find in stellar leadership:

(These words are mine, but I got the definition of each from dictionary.com)

Cognizanceawareness, realization, or knowledge; notice; perception:

Stellar leaders have a keen sense of what’s ahead. They study. They learn. They listen. They remain aware.

Optimisticreflecting a favorable view of events and conditions and the expectation of a positive outcome

Stellar leaders see the glass half-full. They aren’t negative-minded or hyper-critical. They are encouraging. They build momentum. They invest in others and build up the people around them.

Causala person or thing that acts, happens, or exists in such a way that some specific thing happens as a result

Stellar leaders are purpose-driven. Mission-minded. It guides their thoughts and keeps them on task.

Steadfastfirm in purpose, resolution, faith, attachment,etc.

Stellar leaders are consistent. Dependable. Buoyant. They aren’t quitters — even when things get difficult, boring, or even unpopular.

Respectableworthy of respect or esteem

Stellar leaders have been tested. They’ve earned a reputation worthy of following — mostly because they are servant leaders — willing to lay their life down for the people and cause they are trying to lead.

Truthfulness - telling the truth, especially habitually

Stellar leaders word is their bond. They could function — and be trusted — in a handshake world. You can trust them emphatically.

Valor - boldness or determination in facing great danger; courage

Stellar leaders are courageous. They lead into uncharted areas. They take us where we need to go, but haven’t, for whatever reason — many times because of fear.

Integrityadherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.

Stellar leaders have a strong moral fiber. They base decisions on a sense of right and wrong. What you see at work you’ll see at play. They are the same with their family as with their co-workers.

Authentic - not false or copied; genuine; real

Stellar leaders have a unique style and confidence about them. While remaining teachable, they aren’t clones of another leader.

Humblenot proud or arrogant

Stellar leaders recognize they can’t — or won’t — do it alone. They are appreciative; thankful; knowing the value of team — and appreciative of the people they are trying to lead. Recognition for success is shared.

In my opinion, a stellar leader would possess ALL of these attributes.

(Of course, my greatest leader inspiration is Jesus — He didn’t “need” anything from His followers — that’s why He came — to provide what we needed — but He was all these in leadership. That, by the way, is an aspect of His grace — another great quality for a stellar leader.)

What words/definitions would you add to my list? And, do you know a stellar leader?

7 Ways to Better Enjoy Reading the Bible

Christian woman reading a Bible

I’ll never forget the day a young college-aged girl told me recently that she didn’t enjoy reading her Bible and asked if there was an alternative book.

At first, I didn’t know what to say. Then I realize she was very serious.

“Well…no!”, I thought, but didn’t say.

The Bible is THE BOOK!

There is no substitute. There are plenty of great Christian books, but none compare to this one.

That wasn’t a new concern. I’ve heard similar concerns many times. The Bible intimidates many people; even those who are avid readers of other books.

I did suggest this girl could listen to the Bible on a CD or mp3. YouVersion will even read the Bible to you. But then I told her I’d give her some more suggestions.

That’s what prompted this post. The reality is I think we need to figure out how to enjoy reading God’s Word. Part of maturing as a believer is to fall in love with the Bible.

Here are 7 suggestions which may help:

Pray – The Bible is not like any other book. You need God’s Spirit to help you understand and process it. You should always pray before and as you read it. Ask God to help you understand what you’re reading — even to help you enjoy it. Good news here! This appears, in my experience, to be one of God’s favorite prayers to answer.

Version – Pick a version easy for you to understand. I would suggest you read a more literal translation primarily, but the paraphrase versions are good for casual reading. I suggest HCSB, NIV or NLT for a more literal but very readable version, ESV or NKJV if you want a most literal translation, or for a paraphrase version, that’s extremely readable, try The Message Version. I read some of each of these for my studies and casual reading. (I wrote a post on how to select a version HERE.)

Sharing – It brings Scripture to life when we can share it with others. Find a small group. That’s what church is great for at providing. Or find a group of guys or girls at a coffee shop or a couple of people from work. Studying the Scripture with a community helps energize you as you learn. When you talk about what you’re reading, it helps you value it more. (Read Philemon 6 for an example of this.)

Journaling – Writing about your time in God’s Word will help you process your thoughts and keep a record of them. It’s exciting to go back over time and remember what you read before. It fuels your enthusiasm to study even more.

Timing – I love the idea of reading the Bible through in a year. I’ve done this many times. I think it’s more important, however, that you benefit from what you’re reading. I sometimes meditate on a few verses or a story for a day — or a week. I also recommend people start with an easier book to understand and move to more difficult passages from there. The books of Matthew, Mark, Luke or John are good places to start. And, find the right setting. A comfortable chair, an open field — morning, noon or night — what works best for you. And, for as long as you can. Don’t put a time limit on it that adds more burden to the experience.

Clarify – It’a best to have a study Bible for this part, but there are plenty of free online tools also. Look up words you don’t understand. Learn to use Bible dictionaries and commentaries. Use the Table of Contents. No shame. Look up passages, which aren’t clear, cross-referencing verses with other similar verses using footnotes. For some people, having a Bible study to work through along with reading the Bible is helpful. And, when you aren’t certain, ask someone you trust who understands the Bible.

Relationship – The best way to fall in love with God’s Word is to get to better know it’s Author. It’s cliche now, but read it as a love letter written to you. If someone writes you a love letter, you’ll read it continually until you figure out what it means, and maybe even memorize parts of it along the way. If you can’t figure out something, you’ll consult the author.
The greater your love grows with God the easier Bible reading becomes — and the more enjoyable. You may even someday say it’s “fun”!

What would you add to my list?

Five Personal Reflection Questions to Evaluate Your Year and Start the New Year Right

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I’m a reflective person. This time of year — when we start to see all the “best of” reflections online and in the news, I like to do my own personal reflection. How was the year? What can we learn from it? How can I do better next year?

Perhaps you need a little help getting started. Take a couple hours over the next week or so — get alone — and reflect.

Here are five questions to get you started:

What was great?

List some of the highlights of your year. What gave you the most pleasure in life? Make sure they merit repeating — sin can have an immediate pleasure — but plan ways to rekindle those emotions in the new year. Most likely they involve relationships. The new year is a great time to plan some intentional efforts to strengthen relationships — spend more time with family and friends. Maybe you enjoyed the times you spent writing. Take some intentional steps to discipline yourself to do that more. Remember how good it felt that day you served people less fortunate than yourself? Well, now you know something you need to do more of in the new year.

What wasn’t great?

Think of some things that are draining to you personally. Again, it may be some relationship in your life. It could be a job or a physical ailment. It could also be that whatever it is that isn’t great has been around for more than a single year. But, chances are you’ve never taken the hard steps to do something about it. Sometimes recognizing those things is the first step to doing something about them. (Your answer may be that a relationship has ended — and there’s nothing you can do about it. Maybe this is your year to move forward again — even in spite of the pain.) Could this be the year?

What can be improved?

Sometimes it isn’t about quitting, but working to make something better that makes all the difference. Intentionality can sometimes take something you dread and make it something you enjoy. I’ve seen couples who appeared destined for divorce court turn into a thriving marriage when two willing spouses commit to working harder (and getting outside help if needed). I was out of shape in my mid-thirties. I’m healthier today in my 50’s than I was then. The change began in one year — one decision — one intentional effort. Conventional wisdom says a new habit begins in 21 days, but some now believe it may take as long as 66 days to really get a habit to stick. But, would it be worth it if you really began a daily Bible reading habit? Or the gym really was a part of your life more than just the first couple weeks in January? Maybe this is your year to get serious about improving some area of your life.

What do I need to stop?

Maybe you need to stop caring so much what other people think. Maybe you need to stop overeating. Maybe you need to stop worrying far more than you pray. Maybe you need to stop believing the lies the enemy tries to place in your mind. Maybe you need to stop living someone else’s life — and start living the life God has called you to. Maybe you need to stop delaying the risk — and go for it! Maybe you need to stop procrastinating. Do you get the idea? Sometimes one good stop can make all the difference. What do you need to stop doing this year, so you can reflect on this year as your best year ever? Start stopping today!

What do I need to start? 

Think of something you know you need to do, but so far you’ve only thought about it. Maybe you started before but never committed long enough to see it become reality. Often, in my experience, we quit just before the turn comes that would have seen us to victory. Is this the year you write the book? Is this the year you pursue the dream? Is this the year you mend the broken relationship? Is the year you finish the degree? Is this the year you get serious about your financial well-being — planning for the future? Is this the year you surrender your will to God’s will — and follow through on what you know He’s been asking you to do? Maybe getting active in church is your needed start this year. Start starting today!

Five questions. When I’m answering questions like this, I like to apply them to each area of my life — spiritual, physical, relational, personal, financial, etc. Reflect on your life with God, with others, and with yourself.

Try answering them — see how it helps you start your best year ever!

5 Steps to Be a Better Listener — And Improve Every Relationship in Your Life

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Do you want to improve the relationships of your life?

Tremendously improve them. Every. Single. One.

Whether in business, ministry, marriage or friendships – improve in this one area — and every relationship of your life will improve. Guaranteed.

How, you ask?

I’ll tell you how.

Become a better listener.

That’s it. And, it sounds simple, but if you’re honest. You know it is not.

Listening is a dying art. There are truly few good listeners in the world it seems these days. We hear lots, but we listen so poorly. And, in fairness to all of us, there is far too much noise to really listen.

The word listen is defined so much stronger than just to hear. There’s an attentiveness. An intentional effort. A designed purpose for hearing.

And, one secret to improving every relationship is to improve your own listening skills.

I’ll admit. I’m not one of those naturally skilled at listening. Ask my wife. (She’s an expert listener.)

I know how. I was supposedly trained in one of my master’s degrees. In being trained to be a counselor, we were taught how to listen. It’s important for the profession. Knowing how and actually doing it are not always equal functions. Again, ask my wife. (And, by the way, I was never a very good counselor — and that was probably one of the primary reasons. I was too eager to fix problems at times.)

But, enough about my poor listening skills, the question before we proceed is do you want to be a better listener?

Or — maybe a better question — do you want to improve all the relationships in your life?

I can tell you how. Or, at least some ways. If you’ll read with an intent to listen.

Here are 5 steps to being a better listener:

Genuinely want to hear. That’s where it all starts. The most important one. Usually this one alone makes all the difference.

Think of it this way — if someone was talking about a potential job you really wanted you’d listen — for every detail you could glean. If you were a single guy pursuing the girl of your dreams and overheard someone talking about her — you’d listen. Really listen. You’d want to hear every detail. You’d soak up every morsel you could possibly attain.

The process of getting better at listening begins when you value the relationship enough to truly want to listen. When you truly care enough about the subject or the person communicating that you’ll discipline yourself to listen.

Don’t try to respond until they are finished. This is so huge. It’s one I’m most guilty of doing wrong. Once again, just ask my wife.

But it is so damaging to good listening when we interrupt. (Now there are actually counseling techniques that help direct a person’s thoughts when they are rambling, but that’s not what I’m referring to here.) This means you don’t finish their sentences — even in your mind. You don’t assume you know what they are saying before they say it. The problem with doing so is we are often wrong. We have to stop completing and listen. It devalues the person and their message when we don’t give them time to deliver it — in their way of communicating. And, yes, it takes longer for some than others.

Slow down. Some people think they listen faster than they actually do. Yea, I’m one of those too.

For good listening, it’s important to remove any distractions. Put the phone down. Turn off the television. Close the laptop. This is not the time to show you’re good at multitasking. I find I have to step away from my desk and take notes as I attempt to listen.

Make sure the time and place is adequate also. You may need to schedule an appointment to make sure you are completely available to engage. You may not always be “available” to listen when someone is ready to share. Properly listening takes time. Be honest. I’ve also had to be honest with people when the timing just wouldn’t accommodate the time they deserve to adequately listen to their story — such as a few minutes before I preach on Sunday mornings. And, we reschedule.

Focus on the voice. I’m using the word “voice” as a descriptor of the one who is hoping you will listen. Give them your undivided attention.

Look into the person’s eyes. Watch for their body language. We are all unique in how we communicate. Strive to understand their unique style. Engage with them with appropriate responses. A nod of the head when appropriate communicates you are listening. I often tell people in advance, for example, that taking notes helps me listen better. Then I can refer back to something later in the conversation if I didn’t completely understand.

Ask questions. Here’s the foolproof way to make sure you actually heard what was intended — that you were actually listening. (This is where they trained us to be good counselors — and it works.)

Especially if you have any doubts of what the person means — ask. Get clarity. Asking questions is one of the best ways to communicate that you care and that you are truly listening. And, it helps eliminate misunderstandings.

Try questions such as, “So is what I hear you saying…?” “Is this what you mean…?” Additionally, look for more than is being said. Many times questions help pull out what the other person thought was clear, but wasn’t.

Here’s to better listening. I don’t know about you, but I could stand to improve in this area.

What tips do you have?

One Sign of Great Leadership: Admitting You Aren’t the One

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Leadership is not about having all the answers.

One sign of a great leader — in my opinion — is to be bold enough to say, “I don’t have all the answers”.

Perhaps even harder, “I’m not the one to carry this task forward.”

That takes humility.

I observed the pressure some pastors and leaders place on themselves to have all the answers and to be good at everything they do. And, churches and organizations sometimes hold leaders to this level of excellence and expectation.

The fact is, however, that most of us only do a few things really well. Understanding that and being willing to admit it is an indication one is becoming a mature leader — and will actually help them be better leaders.

I love the story of King David in 1 Chronicles 28. The preceding chapters outline how David had diligently organized the kingdom, but then David humbly handed over reins to his son.

Of course, he did this at the command of God, but his speech to the people is not filled with bitterness and anger, but with encouragement and challenge to keep the vision moving forward. There are several Biblical examples of this type leadership.

I love some of the succession talk that is taking place in the church world today. I’m watching as some more mature pastors help the church figure out what’s next for the church — after their leadership. My friends William Vanderbloemen and Warren Bird have actually written a book on the subject.

But, I think this is a daily issue. Few of us are good at admitting we need help or releasing areas from our control. Again, that takes humility. I see that especially true in church leadership. (And, for those who will say the church expects it — I get that — but that’s where leadership is needed even more.)

Great leaders are willing to admit when they don’t know the answer, when they don’t have a plan for the current situation, when they need help figuring out a solution, when they are in over their head, or even — when they are no longer the right one for the job.

Even greater leaders are willing to allow and even promote and encourage others who are skilled in areas they are not and more capable of leading at the time.

Two questions:

Pastor or leader, in what area of your life do you need to humbly step aside and let another lead? It might be in the best interest of everyone if you did.

And, do you have any personal examples of where you’ve seen or are seeing a senior leader extend power to others? Share a story with us.