Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Taming The Tongue... Again!

We all love to talk! Talking has been a part of cultures throughout history. Oral history, stories of exploits, even the giving of commands have depended on verbal communication.
God gave us communication as a gift so we can interact with each other and with Him. Imagine what it would be like if we couldn't communicate with each other, or worse if we couldn't communicate with God.

Sometimes our talking becomes a negative influence on others. Excessive sharing of information (TMI, stop already), gossip (aka "prayer requests"), and talking about ourselves (I, me, my, mine, etc.) are all misuses of this gift.


Let's be honest: At times we are all guilty of misuse. There is however, good wisdom in God's Word concerning our speech (verbal, written, and posted).


James 3:9-10 says: With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God's likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.


Consider:


  • Have we ever praised God on Sunday, and criticized others on Monday?
  • Have we ever quoted scripture, and then quoted (reposted) gossip?
  • Have we ever turned a conversation from another's sharing to "our" story?

As Believers, we have the responsibility of taming our own tongue. Our honoring of God, our encouragement of fellow Believers, and our expansion of God's Kingdom are all linked to how we control our speech (and postings).

May our speech be seasoned with flavor that is acceptable to God, and influential for His Kingdom... Lead Well!


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Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Two Are Better Than One

I remember the first time I attended a National Youth Worker's Convention, very early in my ministry career. There I was like a very small fish in a huge ocean: Hundreds of career Youth Pastors with years of experience sitting and learning from some of the best ministers in the country.
My eyes were wide, my ears were open, and my intimidation factor was in the "red" (being intimidated, not being an intimidator). As a result, I pretty much kept to myself because I didn't want anyone to know I was young youth minister with barely three years of experience. At the conclusion of the afternoon session on the final day of the five-day conference, I was randomly invited to eat dinner by the guy who happened to be sitting next to me.

I reluctantly agreed (he mentioned an Ethiopian restaurant three blocks from the conference hotel), and when I met him in the hotel lobby to take the short walk to the restaurant, he was there... along with six other people he was friends with. My intimidation factor red-lined again: Not only was I among seasoned youth pastors, but I was going to have to talk to them and let them know that I don't know very much.

My, how I was wrong. The people in the group were kind, encouraging, and nonjudgmental. They were interested in me, and didn't try to be interesting to me. They listened, they laughed at themselves, and I learned a lot about relationships, encouragement, mentoring, and the need to be mentored... And about youth ministry.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 says: Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor. If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.

It is important that we value relationships: Let us seek to be interested in others, rather than interesting to others. Let us seek out those who need encouragement. Let us seek to mentor those who are open to input into their lives. Let us be open to input into our lives by mentors.

Let us not waste our relationships on things that don't really matter. Let us invest in people, and allow people to invest in us. Let us... Lead Well!

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Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Asking For The Big Piece Of Cake

Do you remember when you were a child, looking at a freshly baked cake, and as it was being sliced for your family, asking for the big piece?
Being OCB (similar to OCD, but instead of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, I see it as Obsessive-Compulsive Blessing... God made me this way), I was and still am able to determine the largest piece with a quick glance. (But I should limit my cake consumption... Another Blog post.)

When it comes to life, I believe that God wants us to ask Big: More of his Blessing, more of His Ministry, more of His Power, more of His Presence.

I don't believe that the Christian life should be comfortable, sufficient, and mediocre. I don't believe that we are destined to just get by.

Rather, I believe that God wants His children to dream Big, ask Big, expect Big, believe Big, and live Big.

Consider...
  • Jabez, who asked God for a bigger border and to be blessed indeed (I Chronicles 4:10)
  • Hezekiah, who asked God to extend his life (II Kings 20:1-11)
  • Aksah, who asked her father not only for land, but also for springs to water it (Judges 1:13-15)
  • Caleb, who in his old age asked for mountainous country filled with God's enemies so he could drive them out (Joshua 14:10-12)
  • Elisha, who asked for a double-portion of God's Spirit (II Kings 2:9)

What do all of these people have in common? They dreamed Big, they asked Big, they expected Big, they believed Big, and they lived Big.

Dream Big, ask Big, believe Big... Lead Well!

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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

What's Your Opinion?

I remember one of the first times I stood in front of my very first middle school group as their Youth Minister, sharing about how we should treat each other. I was using Philippians 2:3-5 as my text. And looking back, I'm not sure I had a clue as too what I was doing... (I was pretty much sharing my opinion.)
In that passage of scripture it tells us: Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.

Powerful words I thought. We should treat others as we would want to be treated. We should treat others the way Jesus would treat them. (I should have thought that one through and distributed wristbands with the letters WWJD. But, someone else ran with that idea a couple of decades later.)

I went on to tell the middle school students about the dangers of selfish ambition. Little did I know that most middle schooler's greatest ambition was to get out of homework and sluff-off their chores. Ah, and vain conceit... I'm glad they didn't know what that meant, because I sure didn't!

Since that Wednesday evening in the mid-1970's, when I thought I had a good understanding of God's Word, I have come to find out that there are many great truths in those verses for all Believers.

In our relationships with others, which are driven by our conversations (verbal, texted, posted, and commented on), It's good to remember these life-principles:
  • Don't be selfish in conversation. Allow others to express themselves without our quick response about us. A good way to check how we are doing with this: How many times do you use the words I, me, my, mine, and I'm in our conversations? (Again, which includes verbal, texted, posted, and commented on.)
  • Be humble. Just because we know the right answer doesn't mean we have to share it. Our opinion is sometimes just that: our opinion. Share truth, not what we think.
  • Value others. (Including valuing their stories above ourselves and our stories.) When someone shares a story, concern, idea, or opinion, don't be so quick to follow with our own story, concern, idea, or opinion.
  • Be interested in other's interests. Don't be so quick to share about your interest.
  • Treat others the way Jesus would when He interacted with others. (Read the Gospels... There is a wealth examples of the way Jesus treated others.)
Here are a couple of takeaways to try:

  • When someone says something, force yourself to simply listen and smile without any comment or response with your story.
  • When someone posts something, resist the urge to say you like that, you own that, you've had that (or your mom did), or that bothers you too. A simple wow, thumbs-up emoji  or pressing the "like" button proves humility, keeps us from being selfish and conceited, and values others over ourselves.
Keep your opinion to yourself, and... LeadWell!

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Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The Red Badge Of Courage, Revisited

I remember reading the book "The Red Badge Of Courage" in Jr. High School. I remember being captivated by the main character Henry, who fled a Civil War battle because of cowardice. And throughout the story, because of the shame of his cowardly act, he sought a war wound, a "red badge of courage" so to speak, to erase his guilt and humiliation.
Did you realize that most people, including most Believers also seek to wear a "badge" throughout their lives. But it is not a badge of courage, but rather a badge of defeat. 

There isn't a week that goes by that when I ask someone how they are doing, they give a "barely getting by" response: Still breathing. I'm making it. I'll survive.


It seems that most Believers live lives of defeat, limits, and emptiness. "Glass half-full" is how one of my friends puts it. And they enjoy living there: Let me complain... You think you've got it bad... Pity me.


But we don't have to live with that outlook...


Jesus said in John 10:10: The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.


We think that Jesus came so we can have our sins forgiven, and then hold on and hope for the best until we get to heaven. But that is an incorrect theology. The above verse, and so many others in God's Word, tell us that Jesus came to give us life to the fullest: Abundant life!


We don't have to live defeated, limited, and empty. Rather, we can live lives of victory, abundance, and freedom. We don't have to wait until the weekend, or until we get our "beach therapy" to find life, rest, and purpose. We don't have to wait until football season to have something to be passionate about. We can have a full life every moment of every day.


It's all about perspective... and faith. We must know what God says in His Word about us, about the life He has for us, and how to continually walk in that life.


Do you want to wear a "badge" so all can know who you really are? Don't wear the badge of defeat. Wear the badge of full life! Lead Well!


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Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Are You Safe?

The Name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous runs into it and is safe. (Proverbs 18:10)
This powerful verse from the book of Proverbs should be an encouragement and an exhortation to all of us. There is hope, life, and truth in this verse. Here are some of those truths…

The Name of the Lord: Many Christians tag all of their prayers with a quick “in Jesus’ Name, amen.” without considering the power behind that short phrase. When we call on the Name of the Lord, heaven stops and God’s attention is focused on us. When we say “Lord”, He says, “Here I Am”.

Strong Tower: God is a refuge for all Believers. He’s an impenetrable fortress that protects, defends, and covers. Picture a mountain fortress that has no outside access, yet is full of abundant provision and supply. Nothing can get in to harm us, and yet we still go through the exit and “play in front of the enemy” instead of resting in the safe place of the Lord's Presence.

The Righteous: Here is where the responsibility falls on us. We must seek to live righteously. Many Believers live their lives the way they want, and then when trouble hits, they cry out “Help!” We must take on the responsibility of becoming the righteous people that God has called us to be. Being a Child of God does not give us a free pass to live the way we want.

Is Safe: Safety needs to be experienced always, not just when we are in need of help. While driving, we don’t move over and drive on the wrong side of the road when no cars are coming. We know that safety is experienced when we stay between the lines of our lane. In the same way, God wants us to experience the safety of His protection all of the time, and not only when we have a problem or a need.

May we call out on the Name of the Lord, hide in His tower of protection, and stay there.  Always… Lead Well!

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Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Taming The Tongue

I have said in this space before, one of the top axioms I try to live by is: Be interested, not interesting. What I mean by this is keep my mouth shut and listen to others, rather than speaking and expecting others to listen to me.
Do you ever find yourself following another person’s comment (both verbal and social media) with, “That happened to me.” or “I like, I did, I have…” We are seeking to be interesting. We are saying: Listen to me about my life.

A good example of this happened when I was listening to a conversation. One person said, "They just found out my Mom has cancer." The other person immediately responded with, "My Mom died of cancer." (ouch!)

Too often we quickly follow another person's comment with a statement or story from our own lives.

Relating the other person's comment to us very rarely enhances their lives. All we are doing is telling the other person how their experience relates to us. We are essentially saying, "It's not about you, it's about me."

Good Believers, good leaders, good parents, good conversationalists, and good friends are interested more than they are interesting. Being interested makes it about others. Being interesting makes it about self.

And when we do speak, consider affirming, encouraging, supporting, and exhorting the other person. In other words, be interested in their lives. Don’t immediately turn the conversation to make it about you and your life.

Ask the other person to tell us why they enjoyed a restaurant they just mentioned (don't tell them about your favorite restaurant). When a person tells of their vacation, ask them to tell you more (rather than telling about your vacation). 

But if they are critical of something or someone, don't join in on the crjiticism and/or gossip. (Remember: gossip includes speaking about people we don't know personally: politicians, celebrities, people who cut us off in traffic, etc.)

Be a positive influence, not a spreader of negativity.

There is great wisdom in what the writer of Proverbs says in 10:17: Sin is not ended by multiplying words, but the prudent hold their tongues.

May we listen more, speak less, and be much more interested than interestingLead Well!


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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Perspective And Faith

“When will this week be over?” “I can’t wait for the school year to end.” “Could you believe the poor service at that restaurant?” “I can’t stand all of this traffic!”
If we are honest, statements like these work themselves into our conversations, every day. We hear ourselves using these very words to describe our lives. We get annoyed. We get impatient. We don’t like what is happening to us.

And with good reason: Life is difficult.

But as Believers, perhaps we ought to be using different words. Words like:

  • Thank you for my job, Lord.
  • When I am finished with this school year, I will need to find another place to influence people for the Kingdom.
  • I wonder how I can pray for our server?
  • Lord, protect all the drivers on the road.
I have found that how we view the situations where we find ourselves can be simplified into two things: Perspective and Faith.

Perspective: How do I view the situation that I find myself in? Am I expecting the world to revolve around me, or revolve around God and other people? Is this about me or about others?

Faith: Do I really believe that God is working on my behalf to make me more like Christ? Do I really believe all that God says in His Word? Am I demonstrating the way I believe?

Here’s another good question to ask ourselves: Am I talking about how big my problems are, or am I talking about how big my God is? Lead Well!

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Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Inda 2017: Epiblog

Here are some highlights from my 15th mission trip to India:

Sharing Christ at a large outdoor crusade...

Praying for the sick...

Conducting Medical Camps in the Himalayas...

Sharing Christ through an interpreter after a worship service...

Commissioning a Sewing Center helping Muslim women develop a skill...

Enjoying Kashmiri Tea...

Connecting with Leaders in Kashmir...

Meeting and being blessed by a 125 year old Believer...

Reconnecting with my good friend, leader, and "Hero" Kelu...































It was an extraordinary time of ministry and mission. I am privileged to go and minister among the people of India, especially the Kashmiri people. As my wife says, "When Brad goes to India, God does miracles and he gets to watch!"

Would you like to be a part of the ongoing ministry in India? The work doesn't stop when I return to the USA. You can click on the "Donate" button at the top right of this page, or send checks to me at PO Box 2125, Ft. Oglethorpe, GA 30742. (Please write "India Mission" in the memo line of the check.) Thank you for blessing me!