Imagine going to the mailbox and getting a letter – a personal letter – from a famous person. Not a politician or media darling, but someone who is supremely respected in spiritual circles. Let’s say for the sake of illustration that it’s a hand-written letter from Billy Graham.
And since I’m making all this up, let’s say you’ve never met Dr. Graham, and are a little surprised he knows you exist, much less knows your address. But there you are and there in the mailbox is his letter.
After some preliminaries, some kind greetings, Dr. Graham gets around to his reason for writing. “I want you to know, [insert your name here], that I’ve been struggling lately.” (Oh… step back… Let’s assume this isn’t a fund raising trick. Now on with the story…)
Instantly your concern and attention gravitates to these words. Egads, he’s getting personal! Why is he struggling? Why is he telling me he’s struggling? What does his struggle have to do with me?
“This has been going on for some time…”
Wow, this is serious.
“And I’ve been battling this with everything I have.”
He’s not kidding around.
“And the struggle is over you.” [click to continue…]
Yeah, that’s probably the best word for it.
As in, you’ve hit the ditch and can’t get out?
Maybe. Or more like I get so far and every time I hit this wall I can’t ever seem to break through.
Maybe you don’t really want to break through.
What’s that supposed to mean?
Maybe you’d rather lose a thousand pounds than 20.
I don’t follow.
Isn’t it easier to lose one pound and gain it back, then repeat the process a thousand times, than losing 20 and keeping it off?
Okay now you’ve gone to meddling! And yeah, maybe that’s true, but humor me. Let’s assume I really want to lose the 20 pounds. Or I really want to pray consistently. Or I really want to stop feeling so insecure.
But you feel stuck?
I feel stuck.
Powerless to break free?
Tired of 1 John 1:9 being your life verse?
Yeah… Hey! Wait a minute! Are we talking about me or you?
Well, let’s just say, to quote two former presidents, “Ah feel yur pain” because I’ve been “knee-deep in doo-doo” myself.
And what did you learn?
That I was a bad liar. [click to continue…]
(Or Ministry… Or Job… Or Spiritual Gifts… Or Life Mission… Or…)
Years ago I had the privilege of visiting South Korea and preaching in two different evangelistic crusades. One day our hosts took us to a beautiful national park – a very busy place, with lots of booths, a walkway up a small mountain, and a Buddhist temple.
As we were walking down the mountain and enjoying the beautiful scenery along the wide walkway, a young Korean woman approached me and asked if I was from America.
“Could I talk to you as we walk?” she asked. “I’m learning to speak English and it helps to practice with someone who speaks it.”
She spoke English pretty well, albeit with a beautiful Asian accent.
“What do you do for a living?” she asked.
If you travel overseas or have any experience speaking to an ESL (English as a second language), it’s pretty common to try to simplify your vocabulary in order to be understood. I was a pastor at the time, and was pretty sure she wouldn’t know what a pastor was. So I chose a different word…
“I am a minister,” I said.
Her whole countenance changed. Suddenly she was in the presence of someone important!
“Oh! You are a government official?”
Yes, I know I shouldn’t have… but I literally laughed out loud. Then I tried to explain to her that in the U.S. we use the English word “minister” in a different way.
I think she was disappointed. Anyway… [click to continue…]
Time and time again you’re the one who shows up when somebody needs you to.
Sometimes you bring your words with you, sometimes no words at all – just the enduring companionship of a faithful friend.
But who shows up for you when you’re the one who’s aching for the presence of another?
Jesus, that’s who. And in this case, me… because He wanted me to remind you, He’s always there.
You’re the one they turn to for their own self-understanding.
Like a human mirror or road map, you help others make sense of the terrain or the terrible, the magic or the mystifying of their lives.
But who holds up the mirror or points the way for you when the way seems baffling or impossible?
Jesus, that’s who. And in this case, me… because He wanted me to remind you, He’s always there.
Alone is just a figment of a blind imagination.
Lost is just the devil’s panic button of despair.
So when you need reminders of your hope and destination,
Hear the Spirit’s whisper that your Friend is Always There.
[click to continue…]
It’s hard for Alex to force himself to go to work these days. The honeymoon there is way past over, and the only reason he shows up now is a paycheck. He compares himself to others who have gone way too long without any job, and feels guilty for complaining. But this work situation is starting to affect his health, his relationships, and his confidence. He’s been looking, but no other possibilities have presented themselves.
What does Alex do? Does he endure or does he walk away? Does he press on, or does he “step out in faith” in search of new opportunities?
Tyler and Jennifer have reached a similar decision, not about work, but about the church they attend. The congregation has been hit hard with splits, neighborhood transition, and pastoral changes. They have been a part of this fellowship since they married, and have faithfully served. But they have moved to another neighborhood themselves, and it feels harder and harder to go back to what feels like a sinking ship.
What do they do? Is this a time to be “steadfast, immovable,” and all that? Or is it a time to “mount up with wings as eagles” and fly away?
(Yeah, you can make the Bible say just about anything you want it to in cases like this.)
These kinds of questions are common for any believer… [click to continue…]
Ever have a conversation like this?
Whatever happened to ________? I really thought he was going places.
Not sure. Ever since [insert a distracting or demoralizing event] he never was quite the same.
I’ve witnessed countless scenarios like that one. I even lived out a few of them.
The idea of leadership is that you’re influencing people, formally or informally, to move together toward a certain goal. If it were easy, anybody could do it. But because you’re dealing with people, and because leadership often involves matters of the heart, it’s easy to find yourself sucked into leadership quicksand.
At best, it’s a distraction and you lose focus.
At worst, it can paralyze and ultimately destroy your influence.
Here are 10 sloughs to avoid (or get out of today) to allow your leadership to see another day: [click to continue…]
A lighthouse in a harbor stands on solid ground,
Declaring simple truth to all who would see.
“Here I stand,” it calls to the ocean.
“No wave formed against me will ever prosper…
I bow at the mercy of no storm or sea.”
On a firm foundation the Lighthouse in the Harbor
Refuses to surrender, sound the retreat or compromise.
It stands in simple splendor, against the tide.
Though it may show signs of wear and aging,
Though it may look unimpressive to untrained eyes,
The Lighthouse in the Harbor yet still stands upon a rock –
And you… yes, you… are that Lighthouse in the Harbor. [click to continue…]
In a world that’s fall-down-drunk on the idea of self-everything I have some good news that may not come across as good news.
You have a keeper.
Not like keep-you-in-a-cage, though I’m quite sure that’s how some people would interpret it.
More like faithful protector, watcher, provider, attender. And keeping for your Keeper is as natural as being human is for you.
The Lord keeps all who love Him…( Ps 145:20a).
I love Psalm 145 because it contains a long list of the practical attributes of God, as His followers experience Him. Things like gracious and merciful and righteous and sustaining, to name a few. But here’s one I’ve never paid much attention to before now. It is the Lord’s nature and faithful character to keep those who love Him. [click to continue…]
It all started with that “Welcome to Mobile” sinus headache.
Ever go to bed with a mild ache that says, “You should probably address this before you get in bed?”
Yeah, about that.
I had this dull ache that turned into an evil roar at 3:30 in the morning. Sinuses. Head. Neck. Attitude. Everything was in pain.
I didn’t want to wake people up, and didn’t have a lot of options, so I tried taking a shower. That’s when my wife came in to see what was up.
Did I want some pain medicine, she asked?
Boy, did I.
Now I should mention that the “pain medicine” she referred to isn’t your basic over-the-counter pablum. This was he-man stuff… soon I’d be pain-free and loving everybody.
I should also mention that it isn’t wise to take this on an empty stomach. Bad things can happen. [click to continue…]
Here’s a good conversation starter for you. If you could identify one thing in a prospective leader that would ensure success, what would it be?
Or if you are currently in a place of influence, what’s the one thing you should strive for, today and every day?
Let the suggestions roll in… discussions like these will yield stand-by favorites such as vision, compassion, examples, character, communication, inspiration, encouragement and the like. All good answers.
It probably wouldn’t surprise you to know there’s a Bible answer for that. In fact, there are several, if you dig deeply enough. But there’s one place where the Bible – particularly the Apostle Paul – addresses leaders. And there he could have used any word in the language of his day to challenge them. So what one word did he use? See for yourself: [click to continue…]