Happy New Year!
As I begin a new year, I typically take time to review my previous year and examine where I am in several areas of my life. My relationships with God, family and friends, often top the list in my examination. But I also look at my ministry, leadership positions, and opportunity that I have had the past year, to see if I have been a good steward of what I have been given, by God, to do.
Each of us must take time to evaluate where we are spiritually, relationally, physically, financially, and so on, to discover how we can improve, in order to be all that God would have us to be. In fact, I would say that this evaluation needs to happen more often than once a year. Consistently monitoring where I am in the various aspects of my life, is an important part of living life to the fullest.
If you find it a challenge to make resolutions and keep them, let me give you 5 things that I would encourage you to pursue in 2015.
1. Fall in love with God: Every one of us has a unique opportunity to fall in love with a God who is madly in love with us. His desire to have relationship with you is so vast, that He has provided everything necessary to be close to Him. The Word, prayer, worship, service, and giving, all provide that opportunity to draw close in your relationship with Him. Do what it takes to fall deeper in love with God and He will become the center of your life!
2. Hold relationships closer: Family and friends are the spice of life and provide you with the tangible support you need to enjoy life. These relationships should never be taken for granted, but cherished as the gifts that they are. Take time to encourage others and you will find that it will be reciprocated, many times over.
3. Look for opportunity: Everyone has opportunities that are within reach. The difference between those who seize opportunities and those who don’t, is the ability (and guts) to look for and take hold of what could be. Don’t let excuses keep you from exploring opportunity. Life is too short, to not be an adventure.
4. Make a difference: Life can easily become inward focused to the point that depression, discouragement, and loneliness can become the norm for your life. When we begin to look at the needs of others around us, it gives us a balanced perspective on our life challenges. When we look outside of ourselves, and look for ways to make a difference in someone else’s life, it makes a huge difference in ours.
5. Go for it: It is so easy to have the mentality that everything in life will come to us if we simply stay in one place long enough. In the church world we call that waiting on God, but I often wonder if God is not waiting on us to move! Yet the fear of failure is so powerful, that many will be content to do nothing. Take a risk, learn from failure, move forward and seize opportunity. Go for it!
Blessings on your 2015,
Luke 1:30 (ESV) — 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.
I love this passage of scripture because it reveals what is happening in Mary’s heart. Mary, while living life, enjoying the journey, and making plans for the future, had her life interrupted by an angel declaring the plans that God had for her life. I can only imagine what would be racing through Mary’s mind as she tried to process all that the angel was telling her. Fear would begin to creep in as she began to realize the implications on her life, personally and publicly.
While fear can creep into our lives, most of the time it comes crashing in through the interruptions and challenges of life. Things that we have not planned, which interrupt the flow of life, can cause fear to set in and when it does, can be life controlling. Yet, the angel tells Mary to not be afraid. I have often asked myself, how would Mary have dealt with her fear? Did she have relapses of fear in the days that followed this encounter?
As you ponder these questions, I want to encourage you with several thoughts. First of all, God knows and cares about your fears. The angel didn’t scold Mary for her fear, rather he encouraged her to not be afraid. God will provide the encouragement we need to simply trust in Him with the interruptions and challenges of life. In your moment of fear, remember that the God who created the heavens and earth is the one who created you. Who can take care of your life and the circumstances that surround you, better than Him?
This season, cast all your fears upon Him because He cares for you. Trust that He will do good in your life and you will see the blessing of having faith in Him.
Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered. Proverbs 11.25 (ESV)
I have a lot of great memories of my childhood and often think back to those experiences which shaped my life and helped guide and direct my decisions and character as an adult. These influences have come from many different sources, my parents, grandparents, teachers, pastors, employers, and friends. I am so grateful for all those who were willing to make an investment of their time, energy, love, compassion, wisdom and understanding.
As I read Proverbs 11.25 this morning, I couldn’t help thinking of these individuals. One common characteristic of those who have made the efforts to be an investor of blessings into my life, seemed to have the blessing of God resting on their life. In other words, they seemed to walk in the favor of the Lord as they made deposits of blessing into someone else’s life. This isn’t be accident. In fact, God has promised to return the favor in our lives when we take the initiative to be a blessing!
It is my prayer, that I would be a blessing to my family, congregation, friends, and community. That I spend my life investing in others. That they are enriched because of my involvement in their lives.
May we live our lives as an investor of God’s blessings, by sowing into the hearts and lives of others.
“When a movement develops around a dominant personality,” wrote J. Oswald Sanders, “the real test of the quality of his leadership is the manner in which that work survives the crisis of his removal.… If he is to discharge his trust fully he will devote time to training younger men to succeed and perhaps even supersede him” (Spiritual Leadership, rev. ed. [Chicago: Moody Press, 1980], 210, 217).
When I read this quote this morning, it struck a cord with me. I have been asking the question of my ministry and the legacy that I will leave to the next generation. In the evaluation of my life and ministry can I say that I am doing what is possible to enable the next generation the opportunity to fulfill their call and change the world or am I standing in the way of their opportunity?
In order to be an effective leader, we must vigilant and purposeful in passing on the reigns of leadership to the next generation of world changers. Moses had to hand over the leadership of Israel to Joshua, David made sure that Solomon was set up for leadership and greatness in the kingdom. Even Jesus spent his earthly ministry, training the men who would carry the mantel of spiritual leadership beyond His earthly life. The disciples then, would be enablers of future church leaders such a Paul who passed his ministry on to Timothy.
This same pattern as been duplicated for the most part, throughout the history of the church. To pass on to the next generation, the torch of leadership so that the effectiveness of the ministry would continue to have life and vitality. The pattern of mentorship, enabling, and releasing the next generation into leadership must be a priority in the church of today.
I realize that in my life, I have a short window of opportunity to be able to make a difference in the world. The Bible calls my life “a vapor,” it’s here today and gone tomorrow. Therefore, if I am going to make a difference that surpasses my lifespan, I will have to make an investment that pays dividends beyond my years. The only viable way of doing that, is to pour into the life of the next generation and help them become the leaders God intended for them to be.
Someday, I am going to have to leave my place of position in order to pass on to the next generation leader the opportunity to make their mark in ministry. It will be my responsibility to not overextend my stay and limit the opportunity of the next generation leader. It will also be my responsibility to champion, celebrate and support them with a sincere heart.
How can this be accomplished? Here are a few suggestions.
- By listening and learning their passions and desires. Then finding out how you could help them fulfill those passions and desires.
- By opening up opportunities for them to lead. This gives them valuable experience in making decisions and developing skills that they will need to lead effectively.
- By building relationship and intentionally developing mentorship opportunities.
What are some additional ways that we can champion the next generation? Let me know! I would love to hear your insight!
Champion the next generation leader and see your legacy extend well beyond your life!
More than 130 years ago, a group of twenty distinguished Americans met in the Astor House in New York City during the presidency of Millard Fillmore. Among the dinner guests was Secretary of State Daniel Webster, who had been unusually quiet. In an effort to engage him in conversation, a colleague asked, “Mr. Webster, will you tell me what was the most important thought you ever had?” Following a brief silence, he confidently replied, “The most serious thought that ever occupied my mind was that of my individual responsibility to God.”
1 Thessalonians 4:1–2 (ESV) — 1 Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. 2 For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus.
Pastor Paul was giving the Thessalonians the encouragement needed to help them take the steps necessary to develop their faith and relationship with God. His heart for the Thessalonians is clear. He didn’t browbeat them, demand, or demean them in their level of faith, rather he challenged them to take what they know and apply it to their continuous spiritual growth. This is a great example of a pastor’s heart toward those they lead into greater spiritual maturity. A heart of kindness, gentleness, and humility, while at the same time, challenging the core of their spiritual comfort zone.
As we study this passage of scripture, we must also take the words of Paul seriously. We must be growing in our relationship with God and developing our faith in Him. If we are not, this challenge is meant to move you forward in establishing the disciplines of faith. Take what you know, study what you don’t, and pray. God will help move your spiritual life from a place of stagnation, to a place of vitality and life.
Purpose to become spiritually extraordinary and excel in your faith. You will not be disappointed!
Your turn: What helps you keep your relationship with God fresh and maturing?
“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” – John F. Kennedy
The story of Elijah has often brought great inspiration to me as a leader. This was a man who had a nature like us, yet God worked in incredible, supernatural ways in his life. When he prayed, God answered, in a big way! Drought, rain, fire from heaven, his prayers were precise, powerful, and always accomplished God’s purposes. His was a life that was used tremendously to fulfill God’s purposes and plans. Yet with all the victories he experienced, in 1 Kings 19.4 scripture says, “And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.”
This man had just experienced a tremendous spiritual victory and is now curled up in a fetal position asking God to take his life! In his perspective, he was no better than those that are already dead! What an outlook! What happened to this great man of God who only recently was calling fire down from heaven?
He allowed his circumstances to dictate his emotions rather than his relationship to his heavenly Father. Instead of resting in his relationship with God, he began to look at the world around him for his joy, peace and security. When the world seemed to be against him, he erroneously decided that he was the only one left in the world who served God!
Don’t we do the same thing? When the circumstance are not our ideal, or become unbearable, we turn inward emotionally? Inward focus always has a magnifying effect. What we dwell upon becomes bigger than it really should be. Our lows become lower, our highs become higher and it begins to control our lives. We must have a change of perspective in order to restore balance once again. How? Here are 5 starting points to get back on the right track.
- Spend time alone with God. Listen for his voice.
- Remember what God has done. Recall the things He has accomplished in your life.
- Phone a friend. Having a relationship with an encouraging friend can provide perspective.
- Invest in someone less fortunate. Outward focus will silence the voice of inward disappointment, discouragement, and doubts.
- Develop healthy habits. Eating right, exercise, and hobbies is a necessity for healthy balance physically and emotionally.
Leading others is tough. Leading laterally and leading “up” is tougher still. But “self -leadership” is the toughest of them all.–Bill Hybels
Self-leadership can be defined as the process of influencing self to establish the direction and motivation needed for optimal performance. The person who successfully leads themselves finds that they are not only more confident, but experience job satisfaction and increased performance. Self-leadership is the key to leading a fulfilled life in spite of the challenges the world throws at you!
Even with all the benefits associated with successfully leading ourselves, I find that many leaders have a difficult time leading themselves. They often find themselves feeling inadequate, unfulfilled, and often depressed or discouraged in spite of the accomplishments they have experienced. So how can you successfully lead yourself?
- Honest Assessment: Know who you are! What are your strengths and weaknesses? What can you develop and make stronger? What do you need to let go of? Are you trying to be someone you are not? Having an honest assessment of who you are and where you are at in life will develop the foundation of successful self-leadership.
- Established Priorities: What are your highest priorities for your life? What gives you the greatest fulfillment? God, family, friendships, and causes are priorities which gives life purpose and direction. Establish these priorities and you will find greater fulfillment in life!
- Realistic Planning: Setting goals is an important step in helping you know where you are going in life. Setting goals like “trying to take over the world” maybe a little out of your range. Try asking yourself, what realistic goal could I set for the next step in life? You will find that as you accomplish realistic goals, you gain confidence for bigger goals.
- Humbleness: Leaders can be humble by understanding that even though you are in the lead, you need others to come along in the journey! You cannot self-lead without humbly understanding that others deserve credit for your leadership to be successful. Investment in others gives us a proper perspective of self!
- Don’t Compromise Integrity/Character: There are some things in life that you don’t compromise on no matter how creative or innovative it might seem. Self-leadership says “will this damage my credibility to others?” Living a life of integrity will help you to live with yourself!
- Foster Creativity and Experiments: Take time to dream dreams and take risks personally and professionally. Too often leaders can get into ruts of “this has been successful in the past” and don’t allow themselves to get beyond what is comfortable. There are many things that were once thought impossible until the first person did it!
- Outside Input: Self-leadership is not always based on the internal voices that give us guidance and direction. It is important that we have a mentor/coach/friend that has the liberty to speak truthfully into our lives. An outside perspective can be a productive part of successful self-leadership.
- Lifelong Learning: Constantly asking questions like “why?” and “why not?” are important in developing self-leadership. Being curious helps establish the knowledge and wisdom necessary to make right decision personally and in your own leadership. Know why you believe what you believe and always make informed decisions!
- Take Initiative and Lead Change: Great leaders understand that someone has to take the initiative for change and the same is true in leading self. Don’t be dependent upon someone else to change your direction. Initiate change. It won’t happen until you establish that change needs to happen now!
- Finally, Listen to God’s Voice: Your Creator knows you from the inside out. He knows how He created you and what your purpose and His plan is for your life. Understanding this is essential in knowing how to lead your life in the right direction. He has made His plan for your life very clear through scripture, and through prayer, He can help you establish that plan successfully! He can help you live a fulfilled life!
The only way to successfully lead others is to successfully lead ourselves. Take the initiative to make changes in your own life and you will find that your leadership will be much more fulfilling!
Question: Are there more ways to successful self-leadership? What are they? Please use comment box below!
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, (James 1:2 (ESV)).
When faced with the difficulties life throws at us it is easy to turn to a natural response of anger, discouragement, confusion, despair or a combination of all other these. Easily life can cause a person to struggle emotionally, physically and spiritually. James gives a peculiar instruction when he tells us to “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,” (James 1:2 (ESV)).
Count it all joy?? Are you kidding me?? Yet that is exactly what it says! Count it ALL JOY! What is James talking about? The word count is an interesting word it is (ἡγέομαι) hēgéomai which literally means to lead or go before, go first, or lead the way. Metaphorically, to lead out before the mind. In other words it means to lead your mind in the direction it needs to go! Toward Joy!
How? James 1 gives a great foundation for how the believer faces life and still maintains joy. It is only possible if you apply James 1 to your life!
(Please take a moment and comment on the devotional or any other post on this blog. Your feedback is appreciated! Thanks!)