You have just experienced your third Sunday with worship outside the church building. You are starting the second week of the “stay at home” order.  You are working from home and discovering new ways to be socially connected while being physically distant. So, how are you doing with this new normal?  

Maybe a better question is: how are you caring for yourself during this disruption?

Here are four things to remember regarding self-care and the care of others.

1. Be Curious

  • When you are curious you ask questions and learn about people, situations and circumstances. Learn as much as you can about Covid-19 so that you can manage your own thoughts and feelings as you assist others in managing their thoughts and feelings. The more you know the better equipped you are to rely on the facts.
  • Learn as much as you can about the people who are researching the virus and who are leading us through the shrinking the curve.  By listening and learning, you are more able to assist the people who are entrusted to your care.
  • Your curiosity leads to creativity. The more curious you are, the more you learn; the more you learn, the more you can find ways to care, connect, and communicate. Be curious, but don’t be consumed by the media.

2. Be Aware

  • Be Present. Become aware of your own thoughts, feelings, and surroundings as well as the thoughts and feelings of the people around you. When you are present to what is unfolding and happening, you are more able to pay attention to the reality of the moment.
  • Appreciate Current Reality. When you are able to see things clearly, you are more able to lead in these uncertain times. Your calm and peaceful leadership is anchored in your appreciation of reality.  
  •   Keep the End in Mind. As you lead in the reality of the moment, remember that there will be an end to this crisis. Keep moving forward with the assurance that you will make it through.
  •   Be Grateful. As you become present to the reality of the situation with the assurance that you can and will make it through, you will become more aware and more connected to life, to the people around you, and all the new and different expressions of life emerging. Make time to give God thanks.

3. Develop A Routine

  • Routines create high achievers. Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence, then, is not on act, but a habit.”  
  • Routines help you achieve more, think clearly, and do work that matters. They keep you from stumbling through your day and make sure you get the most important things done. 
  • If you have not done so, it is important that you develop a routine that works for you.  You might consider the following:
    • Getting up at the same time every day
    • Participate in God is with Us
    • Exercise
    • Eat healthy food
    • Remember and reflect on the day’s activities and achievements
    • Give God thanks for the moments you experienced God’s presence
    • Get plenty of rest/sleep

 

4. Have Realistic Expectations

  • The balance between realism and optimism, in times of uncertainty, is a key to survival.
  • In times of uncertainty, expectations centered on the future must be realistic.  Check out the Stockdale Paradox for a greater understanding of the balance of realism and optimism. 
  • Stockdale explained, “You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end, which you can never afford to lose, with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”

Your Next Step

You might think of it this way. 

  • (Be Curious) What can you do to help with Covid-19?  Regardless of all you might have to offer, you can pray. As a Jesus follower, pray is part of your life.
  • (Be Aware) Who are people you can pray for? There is no shortage of persons for whom you might pray. At this point in time, you can pray for the doctors and medical personal who are on the front lines, exposing themselves to the virus as they discover ways to keep the rest of us safe. 
  • (Develop a Routine) When can I pray for them? You can pray for them every day as you pray for your family, friends, colleagues, and neighbors. 
  • (Have Realistic Expectations) How should you pray for them? You can pray for their well-being as they offer themselves in service and compassion for their local hospitals, communities, and the world.

As you lead into and through this disruption, it is imperative that you know the facts, name current reality, keep moving forward, with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of current reality.

Know how grateful I am for you and your leadership. Take care of yourself so that you can be the leader God has created you to be.

Know also that you are not alone.  We (Sara Thomas and Tim Bias) are available to help you care for yourself as you care for others.

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God is with Us a Daily Devotional for all God's people Navigating COVID-19

 

 

For Such A Time As This

You have everything you need to navigate the COVID-19 crisis. Your relationships, experiences, and education, both formal and informal, are coming together to equip you for such a time as this. Although you might feel ill-equipped, it is your time to step up and out in leading people through this, never-before crisis the world is facing.

Truthfully, that’s the problem.

You have never faced anything like this before.  Your normal routines, how you approach your family, your work, your church, and your community have changed drastically.

Everything Changed, Instantly

If you still have employment, you are working from home. The schools are closed, the children are home, and you don’t know whether to even let them go outside for fresh air. The church as suspended services. The only contact you have with others is at the grocery store, where you can’t find what you need. The situation is so surreal. You can’t help but asking, “Is this really happening?” Yet, there is another part of you that feels you must protect yourself and your family.

When you listen to the press conferences and updates, you are glad there are people making decisions. You just wish it were different decisions being made. In your quiet moments, you are asking yourself, “How long will this continue?” Or, “I wonder if we will go back to life as we knew it before the virus?”

Draw on the Resources You Have

Although I have never faced this kind of crisis, I know the feeling of not knowing exactly what to do. On the morning of September 11, 2001, I had to mobilize staff to lead a congregation and, ultimately, a community in making sense of terrorist attacks. As I was trying to make sense of the tragedy, I had to help people grieve, address rising anxiety, and interpret reality in the swirl of misinformation and fear.

I responded the only way I knew how.  I had to draw upon the resources I had to address the moment. Because of 9/11, I found that I had more strength and resources than I had been using.  I discovered I was equipped to lead through the anxiety and uncertainty because of the relationships, experiences, and education that had shaped my life up to that point.

I am sure you have been equipped to lead for such a time as this. You are living in a new normal. How will step into and lead amid this time of anxiety and uncertainty?

Take One Step

Over the next few days, make one of the following opportunities a part of your work:

  1. Reflect upon what makes you who you are.

    • Who are the people who have impacted your life? What experiences and/or events have shaped your thinking, feeling, and living? What have you learned from relationships, experiences, and education that equips you for this moment?
  2. Claim what you have to offer.

    • In the midst of the limitations you are now facing (working at home, sheltering in place, suspended worship), what do you have to offer? This is your time to be creative. You have had ideas that you have wanted to implement but you haven’t for one reason or another. Is now the time to use those ideas to create something new?
  3. What are your strengths?

    • How do your strengths complement the strengths of family members? How do their strengths complement yours? Now, more than any other time, you can strengthen family relationships and offer the same to the people God has entrusted to you.
  4. Learn to use technology and social media.

    • It is strange that what connects us with people around the world has disconnected us from the people closest to us.  Learn to use technology to reach out and make a connection with the people you lead and serve.  If nothing more than a phone call, text, or email, you are staying connected.  Take a risk and use Zoom or Skype to connect with people you are accustomed to seeing on a regular basis.  Record or live stream worship or bible study. Maybe you can experiment with one or two forms of technology or social media and discuss these questions/opportunities.
  5. Stay present in the moment.

    • You are your best when you are present. If you spend too much time in the past upon what you have lost or what you should have done, you lose yourself in regret.  If you spend too much time longing for the future, wishing for something different, you lose yourself in worry.  Stay in the moment and take one step at a time.  Offer to walk with others who are lost in regret and worry.  Assist them in staying in the moment and stepping into a new day with hope and courage.

You Have Everything You Need

Now, decide which one of these opportunities you will address first. Be intentional.  Invite someone, either a member of the family or a colleague, to journey with you. Make the time to master that one before moving to another.

By the time you have completed the list, you will discover the strengths and resources that you didn’t know you had.  Those strengths and resources are exactly what is needed to navigate the anxiety and uncertainly of these days.

You have everything you need to lead for such a time as this.

Know that you can reach out to Sara Thomas or to me (Tim Bias) for assistance or direction.  Here are a few things that you might find helpful. Again, expect to hear from us regularly as we navigate this season on ministry.

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God is with Us a Daily Devotional for all God's people Navigating COVID-19

 

How are you doing? Really.

As people of faith, we trust God is present in the midst of our everyday lives. Maybe you spent last week learning new technology, creating new systems, and checking in on people in your community. Maybe you were exhausted and maybe you’re missing people you usually see on a weekly basis.

All of those experiences, and many more, are normal for what we’re experiencing.

Stay at Home

As a leader of a congregation, a family, or a business, you are making decisions regarding the safety of the people entrusted to your care. The “Stay at Home” order in Ohio goes into effect tonight at 11:59 p.m. through April 6. That means you’ll be spending more time with your family.

You are already stepping up and leading well. You’re learning new things at a rapid pace and navigating ever-changing circumstances with grace.

You are equipped to lead people through this. No, you and I weren’t trained for what we’re experiencing in seminary or Local Pastors’ School. But you have the skills to lead others through this time.

What follows are seven reminders as you navigate this season of ministry:

1. Feelings are normal.

Feeling anxious in uncertain times is normal. What’s not ok is to allow your anxiety or the anxiety of others to rule the situation. Your job, as a leader, is to manage your own anxiety as you help relieve the anxiety for others. Help them to find calm. Sometimes that’s as simple as inviting people to breathe. Remember that when feeling processes heat up, thinking processes cool down. We need you to keep your head and heart present. That means keeping calm.

2. Keep the facts in mind.

Allow persons to express their feelings. But at the same time, remember to keep the reality of the situation before them. Some questions you might ask are:

    • What do you know for sure?
    • What are the experts saying?
    • What are you thinking?
    • What are you feeling?
    • What are your options?
    • What are the advantages and disadvantages?

You manage your feelings better when you rely on the facts than you do when you immerse yourself in the emotion of opinions and assumptions.

3. Respond swiftly. Be aware of when to HALT.

Remember, we are living in rapidly changing circumstances. That means you’ll likely need to respond swiftly when something else changes. Be sure to check your response against your normal behavior. If you find your behavior being out of sorts, check if you’re hungry, angry, lonely, or tired (HALT). Your response can become uncharacteristic reactions when you’re hungry, angry, lonely or tired. Yes, that means now, more than ever, please care for yourself emotionally, spiritually, and physically.

4. Keep a narrow focus as you broaden your action.

Your congregation is a part of a larger system. As a leader, you might feel you are responsible for the health and wellbeing of your entire congregation and the local community.

Remember that you and your congregation are connected to a larger system. As you focus on what you need to do, remember that you have other people within the district, conference, and your local community with whom you can partner. In other words, you don’t have to do it all alone.

5. Let go of perfection.

With the stay at home order in place tonight, you and your congregation will not only be practicing social distancing, but contributing to the health of your community, church, family, and to people, you will never know.

Pastoral care is taking on different forms, so is worship. Your meetings are happening in different ways, too. All these new things and new mediums to communicate mean now is not the time to focus on perfection. Offer your best, don’t exhaust yourself. And that leads us to…

6. Keep things simple.

A telephone is still a great tool. Use it. If you have the capacity to use technology, use it, too. And, yes, wash your hands and keep a 6′ distance. (We hope one day we look back on this post and laugh. For now, these are life-saving measures for you and the people you lead and love.)

As you seek to support people and care for one another, keep your systems simple. A phone tree, email distribution list, or common time for Facebook prayer gatherings are simple ways to stay connected.

7. Work the plan you created.

You’ve suspended worship services and meetings or moved things online or to conference calls. Some of you are also cleaning up from floods. Our guess is, you didn’t have any plans in place for this. After all, why would you?

Now is the time to create communication systems and work those plans. How often will you use the phone chain? When will you send emails? What about USPS mail? Where does social media fit into the plan? (That’s not a list of things you have to do. It’s a list of things to consider.)

In the midst of any crisis, it’s always helpful to name what events trigger your plans. Remember, anxiety does not rule the situation. Decide what will objectively trigger your plan and relax in the knowledge that you will know when to act.

You are Leading

You are already thinking of things that we have not mentioned. Good. That means that you are already starting to lead in the midst of anxious times. Remember to manage your own emotions and thoughts as you work to lead the people around you.

With a deep and abiding peace of God’s presence, you will assess the situation, understand what is happening, and make the leadership decisions needed to navigate this season of ministry.

Please know that you are not alone. We (Sara Thomas and Tim Bias) are available to help navigate these uncertain times with you.

God is with Us a Daily Devotional for all God's people Navigating COVID-19

 

I’ve had several conversations/emails from Pastors leading smaller, older congregations asking something like, “How can I lead worship during this time?”

Often, the congregation is not on Facebook, individuals don’t have a computer, and are in the high-risk group for COVID-19. If this is you, keep reading. If it’s not, jump down to the section “Daily Devotional” below.

Leadership Pivot

First, thank you for asking and seeking to find new ways to lead, worship, and care for the community of faith.

This is a leadership pivot. Here’s what I mean. Plant one foot in what is essential at this moment (faith, hope and love; Scripture, prayer, the spiritual disciplines; reminding people they are not alone, God is with them, etc)

Then scan for opportunities. Here are a few opportunities I found that may be helpful. Please comment below to share your resources, too!

Scanning for Opportunities

  1. Sign up at freeconferencecall.com
    • You’ll get a phone number that you can then share.
    • Everyone calls one number and you’re all on the line together. 
    • Do a devotion/prayer request/reflection time.
      • Give people opportunities to talk too. Don’t be the only voice.
      • This is a different medium. You’ll need to pivot to adapt to the medium.
    • UPDATE from FreeConferenceCall.com (3-20-2020 email). To help alleviate the strain on their system, the following steps are suggested:
      • Download The Mobile App. Tap here to Download for iPhone, here to Download for Android. This will give you the ability to call in over WiFi. Our app also has smart call routing so when you dial-in using your phone we’ll route you to carrier networks that have the most bandwidth.
      • Download The Desktop App. This lets you call in using your computer and also lets you stay better connected with screen-sharing and video conferencing. Tap the following link and scroll down to Download the Desktop App. 
      • Schedule meetings to start 15 or 45 minutes past the hour rather than on the hour. Carrier networks are less congested at these times.
  2. Sign up for zoom.com (free version).
    • Zoom uses both telephone and internet/video, so this can be an ideal solution for everyone.
    • Distribute the phone number and link via a church mailing or phone chain.
    • Share a devotion/prayer request/reflection time. Give people opportunities to talk too. Don’t be the only voice. This is a different medium. You’ll need to pivot to adapt to the medium
    • The benefit of zoom is you can break people into groups. And some will be able to see one another, too. There is an app for smartphones and iPads, too.

Pilot

Remind people we’re living in an ever-changing time. You might try a conference call a few times and find it works. You might do the same with zoom. It might be awkward, weird, and different.

And that’s ok.

Remember you can pivot at any time if you find a better solution.

Here’s what I wouldn’t do: don’t try one of the above options once and quit. There’s a learning curve for everyone. Be patient as you pilot.

And, yes, I may have written that as much as a reminder for you as for me.

Launch

Do one of the above at least weekly. Either of the above will be great for worship, a mid-week check-in, and meetings. Try something! That’s all I’m encouraging.

Daily Devotional 

To help with the devotion piece, starting Sunday, Tim and I are facilitating a daily devotional.

I say facilitating because we’re inviting anyone to write a devotional.  My point of bringing this is is to say, feel free to use one (or more as the weeks go on) on your calls outlined above. Here’s all we ask – acknowledge the writer, just like you’d do in a sermon. Give credit where credit is due. 🙂 

If you sign up for “God Is With Us,” we’re also working on a pdf version that won’t be dated so it can be copied and mailed to people without email/tech. 

Again, you can sign up to write or receive the devotional here: https://www.transformingmission.org/god-is-with-us/

For anyone who is tech-savvy, you can share this bit.ly link

bit.ly/GodwithUs (case sensitive)

Your Ideas

Tell us in the comments, what are you doing to stay connected as a faith community and support those who are quarantined?

What happens when what you have believed about God begins to crumble?

In times of stress and dis-ease, human nature is to feel overwhelmed. You might be feeling that right now as we navigate a new reality with the coronavirus.

Or, consider when a loved one dies, an unexpected illness emerges, and you begin to question whether God is really a good God.

Or, you have your beliefs challenged at the university or you see the hunger, hurt, and violence in the world and the doubts you have about “the end times” or biblical infallibility are called into question.

What is your response?

When you’re overwhelmed, what do you do?

Perhaps you doubt. Perhaps you question. Or perhaps, you do nothing, frozen by inaction.

Everyone has doubts.  To question and to wrestle with who you trust and what you believe does not mean you are unfaithful or an unbeliever. In fact, many who honestly wrestle with their faith, in the end, strengthen their faith.

You live in a chaotic and fragmented world. As you grapple with pandemics, partisan politics, social inequality, and cultural turmoil, your faith is not immune to the anxiety. Even the Church is going through its own crisis of faith. Again, what do you do?

Whether you are conscious of it or not, your understanding and practice of faith are shaped by your environment. Below are some of the cultural factors that help shape your faith.

Cultural Factors to Consider

Individualism

  • There was a time in history when your identity was defined in the context of family and community. But today, your desire, meaning, and value is self-defined. Because you are the builder and judge of your own truth, the truth has become relative. This form of individualism shapes your faith. It is subtle.  It can be found in the words of your favorite worship songs, in the conditions of discipleship, and in the way you relate to the people around you. Because you are the center of your own story, your faith can be easily shaken.

Consumerism

  • You live, survive, and thrive in a system-oriented around the consumption of goods and services. In fact, you are so immersed in this cultural system, you have developed anxiety of scarcity.  You are never satisfied because there is never enough. Again, it is subtle. It is found in church programs, ministries, and Sunday worship. You pick and choose which products and services best meet your needs, desires, and preference.  When those products and services are not offered, the church is not living up to your ideals and your faith is shaken.

Fundamentalism

  • As individuals have become the center of their own stories, they have also become the center of their own faith.  The shift is from being centered upon God’s goodness to be centered upon your own goodness. It is seen in individual purity, individual obedience, and individual salvation.  Purity, obedience, and salvation are good, but when the goal of faith is your personal betterment, then the object of faith shifts from God to yourself. When you are in the center, you set your standard of individual purity and legalistic obedience upon others. When people don’t live up to your expectations, your faith is not only shaken but you blame others for your shaken faith.

My point here is not to call out the inconsistencies and hypocrisy of faith but is to name the current reality in which you are presently living your faith.

As the Lord said in the play “Green Pastures,” “Everything that is nailed down is a’comin’ loose!” So, what do you do?

Focus Your Faith on Jesus

One simple answer is, focus your faith upon Jesus.

I am assuming you know Jesus, so let’s examine faith and particularly Christian faith.

John Hendrick, in his book Opening The Door of Faith, writes, “Christian faith is a centered, personal, relational response involving trust and obedience.”  Using his definition, Christian faith is:

A centered faith

  • According to scripture, the object of Christian faith is the living God revealed in Jesus of Nazareth whom we call the Christ, Messiah, Son of the Living God. It is a particular faith.  The adjective “Christian” is taken seriously.
  • So, the Christian faith is neither a generic faith nor faith in general. You don’t have faith in faith. You have faith in Jesus. Neither is the object of Christian faith a philosophy of life about which you speculate, nor a system of ethical ideals about which you argue, nor a set of doctrinal propositions to which you must give mental assent.
  • The Christian faith is centered upon the living God revealed in Jesus.

A personal faith

  • Faith is centered on a living person – Jesus. Jesus is a living person because of the resurrection. Resurrection is not merely an event that happened two thousand years ago, which you celebrate every Easter. Resurrection means that Jesus Christ is alive now, today.
  • Christian faith is also personal because it requires a personal response from each human being. Although you can come alongside someone, love them, encourage them, and support them, you cannot have faith for them.
  • Because Christian faith is centered in the person of Jesus the Christ, it is a personal faith but not a private faith. It is not centered upon you and your preferences, it is centered upon God, the gospel, and the Christ the gospel announces.

A relational faith

  • It makes possible a right relationship with God, with the people around you, with yourself, and with creation. It is the grace of God that provides the basis for a relationship.
  • By faith, you respond to God’s grace. It is by faith that you love your neighbor.  It is by faith you become who God created you to be. By faith, you are related to and care for creation.
  • By faith, you are brought into a relationship with God and with the people around you. You cannot be properly related to God and improperly related to your neighbor. You cannot claim to love God while you do not love your neighbor.
  • By faith, you are brought into a relationship with yourself. You cannot become who God created you to be when you are not in a relationship with God and neighbor. It is in and through your relationship with the people around you that you become more who God intended.
  • It is by faith that you become one with God, one with your neighbor, one with yourself, and one with creation.  When you are in a relationship with God, your neighbor, and yourself, you can no longer be content to treat God’s creation selfishly.  It is this relationship that helps transform the consumer mentality that leads to greed and the exploitation of creation.

A response to God’s grace

  • God has acted on your behalf in Jesus.  By God’s grace, you respond to God’s action by becoming a follower of Jesus.  Your response is not based on what you feel or what you have done.
  • Your response is based upon what God feels toward you and has done on your behalf.  So, the foundation of your faith is not so much your commitment to God but God’s commitment to you. You respond to God’s commitment with your whole self, body, mind, soul, spirit, sensibility, and will.  Your response involves your whole self as a human being.

Trust and Obedience

  • Trust defines the relational and personal aspects of your faith.  Your very existence and identity are made up of a network of trusts that you hold. There is a definite sense in which you are who and what you trust.  You tend to treasure what you trust and trust what you treasure.
  • The only appropriate response to the living God revealed in Jesus of Nazareth is ultimate trust.  To trust God is to commit yourself totally to God, to rely on God, and to allow yourself to be shaped by God.
  • Ultimate trust leads to obedience.  The response becomes the responsibility and you are faced with the ethical dimension of faith. When God becomes your ultimate trust, you align all other trusts accordingly.  To align your trust is to align your life at its center.
  • Your response of trust and obedience as you follow Jesus into your neighborhood, your community, and your city.  Your response of trust and obedience has you love your neighbor and participate, by God’s grace, in the transformation of the structures, systems, and relationships of the world.

What do you do when what you believe about God begins to crumble? You focus or refocus upon the object of your faith, Jesus Christ.

Your Next Steps

You remember who you are

    • You are a beloved child of God. God has chosen you, loves you, and given you a name. Because your faith is centered upon the person of Jesus, when “everything that is nailed down starts comin’ loose,” you don’t.

You remember whose you are

    • You belong to God and nothing can separate you from God’s love that you know in Jesus. When you are at one with God, your neighbor, and yourself, and everything around you is at its worst, you are at your best.

You remember why you are

    • You are created by God to make the world, your community, your neighborhood who God created it to be. As a result, you love as you have been loved.  Your neighborhood and community will know that you are a Jesus follower by the way you love those around you.

When you understand your Christian faith, as a centered, personal, and relational response involving trust and obedience, your faith becomes contagious.  In fact, it becomes so contagious and powerful that it spreads from person to person.

So, regardless of who you are or what you have done, regardless of your situation or circumstances, regardless of how tough life gets or how much you might doubt, God loves you and nothing can separate you from God’s love as experienced in and through Jesus Christ.

Focus your faith on Jesus.  He is God’s way of letting you know that when everything around you seems to be coming apart, you are loved, and you have a place. You are a beloved Child of God and nothing can change that reality.

 

In Gratitude

I commend you on coming through your first Sunday disruption regarding the coronavirus. Thank you for finding new and different ways to communicate and to connect with your congregation. 

As you know, this disruption is not over.  In fact, we are entering a new normal. For how long? Who knows. But when was the last time you and your spouse were working from home, while the kids were home from school?  When was the last time you did not have extra-curricular activities, one, two, or three nights a week? The normal rhythms of life are being disrupted. 

COVID-19 is a serious global pandemic.  All necessary precautions should be taken. Thank you for stepping up to do your part in addressing this crisis. But just as you had to find new and different ways to communicate, you will now have to find new and different ways to lead your congregation and community. 

What we Know

Here is what we know: 

  • Although COVID-19 is a new virus, we, as a human community, have successfully faced and overcome similar crises in the past. 
  • For example, the plague in London, the flu epidemic in 1917, the Poliovirus in the 1950’s, and HIV/AIDS in the 1980s. We have survived the atomic bomb, two world wars, a Cold War, wars in Viet Nam, Iraq, Afghanistan, global terrorism, 9/11, not to mention the assignation of a president, a civil rights leader and presidential candidate, natural disaster, cancer, STD’s, Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, the list goes on. 

We will face and overcome this serious virus as well.  But you will need to step up and lead the people around you through the anxiety and confusion.

  • Because COVID-19 is a new virus, it is frightening. We can’t control it. Precisely because it is new and we don’t know how to control it, we are being asked to take precautions, that for some seems drastic and unnecessary. Regardless of what you think or how you might feel about the situation and circumstances, we are in a time of great anxiety and stress.

It is in the midst of this anxiety and stress that you are needed to step up and to be a calming voice and presence.

Sara Thomas is trained to coach people during times like this. Reach out if you need someone to be in conversation with about your own anxiety, leadership, and navigating this disruption. Coaches don’t have an agenda, they hold space for you to discern what is needed. We’re here to help. 

Things to Consider

Here are some things to consider:

  1. Be the leader that you need and want. 

  2. Communicate with the people in your congregation.                                      

    • Since information sharing and communication on Sunday mornings is out for a few weeks, identify the ways you will connect with people in your congregation? Email, text, phone, Zoom? You have an opportunity to develop some new patterns of communication and new habits for connecting. 
  3. Lead by example 

    • You have the opportunity to use technology to pray, teach/preach, lead meetings, etc. It is only inconvenient because it is not your normal pattern. Make it your normal pattern so that you can continue to be the leader you need and want. 
  4. Live your life as a follower of Jesus

    • There are people around you who are afraid.  They need to know they are not alone and that someone cares for them.  This crisis provides you the opportunity to point people to God’s love in Jesus. Be the presence of Jesus in every situation and circumstance. Watch for an email about a daily devotional that we’d love for you to contribute to and share with your congregation.
  5. As a follower of Jesus…

    • You already know that whatever happens, you will be okay because “nothing, absolutely nothing can separate us from the love of God in Jesus…” Offer such assurance and hope to the people God has entrusted to your care. 

Again, thank you for your leadership.  God is not done with you yet. In the midst of the crisis, you are being shaped as the person and the leader needed for these days. Step up and become who God is creating you to be.

Please know that Sara Thomas and I (Tim Bias) are available to help navigate these uncertain times. 

During the moments you find yourself in crisis and you are questioning your faith, in whom do you place your faith? As you explore your faith, see if one of the following scenarios feels familiar:

Scenario 1

You have a strong faith. It has been growing since you were a teenager and has served you well through your young adult years, marriage, and starting a family. Then, the unthinkable happens, you lose a child to sudden infant death, or a family member is killed in a form of violence, or there is a betrayal of a close and trusted relationship. Walking through the reality of the grief and pain of that experience does not allow you the option to pretend you are fine. In fact, you finally admit that you have not been fine for quite some time.

You have kept the questions, good Christians aren’t supposed to ask about their beliefs, below the surface, but now they are bubbling up out of your control. Up to this point, you have avoided facing them head-on. You feel fine until you experience grief on a deeply personal level. The devastation has you facing your doubts and you realize your system of beliefs is no longer adequate. 

Scenario 2

You have been a Christian for over 30 years. Your faith has formed every aspect of your life, your wedding vows, the raising of your children, your relationships at work, your participation in the church, and your leadership in the community. It has formed you as a coach in the youth basketball league, your position on the town council, and as a volunteer in a service club.

You have a conversation with your most trusted friend. You say out loud what has been churning in your mind and heart for years. “I don’t really believe there is a God. Whatever faith is it does not work for me.”

Until now, you have been able to control your thoughts and emotions, but you do not want to wrestle with them any longer. You don’t want to seem irresponsible but going through the motions of your faith has you questioning your integrity. There’s something inside you that says, “I just want to feel normal, to be known for who you really am, and to have some inner peace with myself.” 

Transitions of Faith

If any of what you just read feels familiar, you might be one of the many persons going through a faith transition. Mike McHargue, known as Science Mike, has gone through a faith transition from believer to atheist, and then back to a believer. He has wrestled, intellectually, spiritually, and emotionally with his faith.

He writes, “Sociologists tell us that 43 to 44 percent of people will go through a major faith transition at some point in their lives.” He continues, “And that’s any faith transition. So that can be from one Christian denomination to another denomination; that can be from belief to atheism; that can also be from secularism to some form of religiosity.”

“The more rigid your faith structure, the more drastic the leap of faith required to start asking questions surrounding it.” He points out, “To ask one question will lead to a lot more.”

So, why would I want to bring up such a subject? As a pastor or a leader, you are surrounded by people who are wrestling with faith. Whether it is in the pew or in the community, people are looking for authentic experiences of care, compassion, and belonging.

You and I find such authentic experiences in Jesus. 

So, the question is, why would anyone want to transition from Jesus to someone other than Jesus? The answer is, they are not transitioning from Jesus but from the objects that keep them from Jesus. Below are several of those objects. I name the following challenges, recognizing some might elicit controversy. I also recognize until we name the challenges, I cannot lead people in addressing the challenges. 

Objects of Misplaced Faith

1.The Bible

The written word of God points us to the Word of God, Jesus. Jesus is the Word made flesh. Jesus is the center of faith. The Bible points us to Jesus.

Today, many Christians overstate the importance of the Bible. For some, the Bible is the focus or object of their faith. 

But remember, our faith is in Jesus. When your faith is in Jesus, then you are able to have open and safe conversations about the truth of the Bible. There can be questions raised about inconsistencies and contradictions, discrepancies and mistranslations. 

Raising questions about scripture does not make the Bible less important. In fact, the questions lead to the truth the writers of the biblical texts give witness. In the end, the Bible, with all its debatable mistakes and misquotes, still points us to Jesus, God’s love and our hope made flesh. 

But when the Bible becomes the object you worship, when what you worship is the Bible, not Jesus, a conversation about scripture is a threat. Once you start questioning the inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible, the rest of your faith soon crumbles.

Faith is centered on who you trust, not centered in what you believe. Jesus never asked anyone to have a belief in God, but he did ask people to love God and to love their neighbors. Jesus called people to a way of life. He said, “Follow me, be my disciples.” Living life as a Jesus follower is different than saying I believe in God or I believe in Jesus. 

Belief is important, but what you believe is not the focus of your faith. Jesus is. So, I say again,

people are not transitioning from Jesus but from rigid beliefs that keep them from Jesus. 

2. The Pastor:

A good spiritual leader is essential. Having someone you trust to walk with you through periods of doubt, despair, and discouragement, who can help you keep your eyes upon Jesus, and who models God’s love feels unbelievably good. 

But your pastor is not the center of your faith. Your pastor points you to the person who is the center of your faith, Jesus. 

When your faith is in Jesus, you are able to listen to and follow the persons gifted and called by God to love and lead in and through the church. Regardless of gender, race, age, politics, or status, when a person is gifted and equipped by God to love who God loves, then Jesus is at the center of all relationships. 

But when your faith is centered in the pastor, you focus more upon what the pastor believes than upon Jesus to whom the pastor is pointing. Once the pastor does not believe what you believe or act the way you want him or her to act, then your faith begins to wander. 

When your faith is centered in the pastor, then only a certain kind of pastor will do. Or, even more misdirected, only a certain, handpicked, interviewed, and approved pastor will do. So, your allegiance is centered on the pastor and not in Jesus. 

Pastoral leadership is important, but your pastor is not the focus of your faith. Jesus is. So, I say again, people are not transitioning from Jesus but from our misplaced allegiance that keeps them from Jesus. 

3. The Church

It is the church, as an institution, that gets in the way. When the church as a system of hierarchical control with political entanglements, abuse of authority, lack of integrity, becomes the center of faith, pastors leave their pulpits and people leave the pews as well as the faith altogether. 

Jesus is the reason the church exists. So, when Jesus is not the focus of the church, what is the use of the church? 

When the church is an instrument of pointing people to Jesus, nurturing them in the faith, and sending them out to love and serve, then people are drawn to Jesus and to Jesus’ followers. People need such institutions as instruments or conduits of faith.

But when the church becomes nothing more than a club where membership has its privileges, where an open and safe conversation is discouraged, where people are received based upon their acceptability, and where the building has more value than the people to whom the church is called to love and serve, you have a problem. 

The community of faith, the church, is important, but the church as an institution, as a building, as a special club is not the focus of your faith. 

So, I say again, people are not transitioning from Jesus but from the lack of care, compassion, and belonging in a Christian community. 

Navigating the Objects of Misplaced Faith

So, what are you to do as people attempt to navigate the objects of misplaced faith? How will you respond as people search for authentic expressions of faith? In the midst of crisis, doubt, and transition, your leadership is needed. I challenge you to do the following: 

  • Be clear within yourself in whom you place your faith.

Is your faith in the person of Jesus? If not Jesus, in whom or what do you place your faith?

  • Provide space for persons to question, explore, and discover their faith.

People need non-judgmental space to ask their questions and to explore. Your church is a place where everyone is welcome. It is also a place where people, all people, can wrestle with doubt and find the faith for which they are desperately searching. 

  • Be a person of authentic care, compassion, and acceptance 

You don’t have to be an expert, but you do have to be authentic. Both humility and vulnerability are needed in assisting persons in exploring faith. Pay attention to what others are learning from their exploration. It will help you become more who God created you to be. 

  • Continue to point people to Jesus.

People are searching for deep and meaningful relationships. Be aware of appropriate moments when you can point people to Jesus, your deepest and most meaningful relationship. 

The people in our communities and in our churches are looking for authentic experiences of care, compassion, and belonging. I find such authentic experiences in Jesus. The Bible, the pastor, and the church are instruments through which people discover, experience, and follow Jesus. 

In the midst of such uncertain days of exploration and transition, in whom do you place your faith?

  • What do you do when you eat out, the food is delicious, and the service is exceptional? 
  • Or, when you have your car repaired, the service is better than you expected, and your bill is less than the quote?
  •  Or you see a movie that captures your interest and touches you emotionally? 

What do you do? You tell somebody about your experience. You recommend the restaurant, the garage, or the movie. And depending upon who is listening, you talk about your experience until someone says, “I’ll have to experience that for myself.” 

Evangelism

The word for such experiences in the church is “evangelization.” It means “to tell good news” regarding your experience. So, when you talk about your delicious meal and the exceptional service, you tell the good news of or “evangelize” the restaurant. When you say to your friends about the deal you received for your car repairs, you “evangelize” the repair shop and the mechanic. You even say, “You might what to have your car repaired there.” When you go on and on about how good the movie was, you are “evangelizing” the movie.

In the church at its best, evangelism is living and talking about how you experience God’s love in and through Jesus Christ. When you talk about your faith, you are evangelizing the presence of God in your life, and the love of God experienced the lives of the people with whom you live, work, and play. Most pastors and church leaders agree that individual Christians and churches should evangelize the gospel and make disciples. It is easy to get agreement on the importance of evangelism, but it is not so easy to get people to talk about their faith experiences.

Faith Sharing

Because talking about your faith is essential in the life of the church, there have been programs designed to help Jesus followers “share their faith” with friends, relatives, acquaintances, and neighbors. The motivation for such evangelism programs is usually built upon obeying the Great Commission found in Matthew 28:19-20 (NRSV): 

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” 

These evangelism resources assume you will talk about your faith when you know how to talk about it in a non-offensive, non-manipulative way. Many of these resources have good training materials regarding how to share your faith, but they make one big assumption. They assume you want to tell others about your experience of God’s love in Jesus. Being taught to share your faith, to talk about your experience of God’s love, is of little use when you don’t have a faith to talk about, and to share. 

How do you understand evangelism?

As simple as it sounds, evangelism has come to be known as something different than “sharing faith” or talking about God’s love in Jesus Christ. The word “evangelism” has come to be known as coercing people to accept Jesus Christ. “Evangelizing” neighborhoods or communities reduces the meaning of evangelism. Consider for a minute, are you seeking to give witness to the love of God experienced in Jesus? 

So, evangelism is now identified as outdated programs once used to “add” names and numbers to membership rolls of churches and completed by a few “truly” committed people in the congregation. 

I once held a denominational position of “Evangelism Executive.” I have done the research. Although I thought I was doing the work of evangelism, I confess I have helped to develop and to write some of the evangelism programs that have fallen short of their designed and desired results. 

Methodists & Evangelism

I have also learned some critical facts regarding evangelism. 

  1. The motivation of the early Methodists was the love of God in Jesus Christ, not the Great Commission. John Wesley taught that the Great Commission had already been fulfilled by the early Christians. He focused more on the commission as given to the apostles for their time rather than it being relevant to his own time. 
  2. The early Methodists (preachers, class leaders, and members) were laity who were highly motivated to share the gospel with others. They had a deep desire to tell others about Jesus Christ and the difference he made in their lives. 
  3. At the root of their deep desire to tell others about Jesus was a life-changing experience of God’s love. It was expressed as a heart renewed in love by the Holy Spirit. The new life was a work of grace that brought forth new motives and desires, new relationships shaped by a love for God and love for neighbor. It brought peace, joy, and righteousness.
  4. With this new life came a deep sense of well-being and purpose. The early Methodists had a deep concern for the well-being of others, both spiritual well-being as well as physical well-being. The new life led to new ways of living. Because of the love in their hearts, the early Methodists not only had a story to tell but a deep concern for others. 
  5.  The early Methodists received a wonderful new life in Christ through the grace of God. It was too wonderful to keep to themselves. Their best evangelism was rooted in their deepest relationship. They wanted to share this good news with everyone, and they did in the way they lived. 

The evangelism of the early Methodists transformed England and spread across the North American continent like wildfire. Their sincere desire to tell others what they had experienced changed the world. 

Who Do You Know Like This?

Over the years, I have met a few people who had this deep desire. These persons shared their faith because they could not do anything but share their faith, both in words and actions. Their witness was to preach what they practiced. What was in their hearts, they lived in their relationships.

Meeting Bob

I remember the first time I met Bob. He greeted me with a warm, inviting smile and a gracious welcome. He was an usher at the 8:30 worship service. As I began to learn more about the ministry of the church, I discovered that Bob was present in most places. 

When we started a ministry at a nearby elementary school, Bob was there. As the ministry was moved to another school, Bob was there loving, caring, and serving. When the weekly feeding ministry expanded on Saturday mornings, Bob stepped up with his genuine care and compassion. 

Because of his love for people, regardless of age, he had a unique way of connecting with them. He was often the first person to meet guests on Saturdays, to greet worshippers on Sunday, and to offer words of encouragement to children during the week. 

Bob’s Connection with People

One Saturday, during the weekly feeding ministry, one of the guests was agitated. He was known to have a mental health illness. That day he was talking to himself, growling at anyone who got too close, and violent when anyone tried to touch him. As it sometimes happened, the leader for the day directed the volunteers to be watchful and to stay clear of this gentleman. 

It was at that moment that everyone noticed the man was not in the room. The leader began to look for him, hoping to find him before someone was hurt. As the leader turned the corner in the hallway, he noticed Bob sitting with the man in the Chapel. Bob had his arm around him, listening to the man share something important. The man had a scripture book in his hand. As he got up to leave, he shook Bob’s hand and gave Bob a hug. 

As the man left the Chapel, the leader approached Bob to tell him about the man’s disposition and agitation. Bob responded, “Thanks for telling me. I saw he was not feeling well, so I asked him if he needed to talk. I think he is better now.” With that, Bob smiled and went out to greet the other guests. 

Bob’s Impact

At the school, Bob made a lasting impact on the students. He was often mistaken for one of the staff because he found time to be there three, and sometimes four, days a week. He made a difference by loving each child as if he or she was the only one he had to love. 

Bob spent most of his career at the University of Illinois College of Medicine. Even when he retired, he found time to keep his connection with students and faculty. He gave of himself whenever he was needed. 

Bob never participated in an evangelism program, yet he was an evangelist in word and deed. He never had a course on how to share his faith, yet he shared the gospel by the way he lived in a relationship with the people around him. 

Your Turn

Here is what I want you to do. Take time this week to participate in this exercise. Get a pen and paper and write down your responses to the following questions:

  1.  When you go on and on about what is important in your life, who or what are you talking about?
  2.  When have you experienced love so deeply that you wanted to tell others about it?
  3. How has your experience of being loved affected your living? How has your experience of love affected your relationships with the people where you live, work, and play?
  4. When you talk about is important to you, do you try to persuade others to adopt a point of view, or do you point people to who is important to you?
  5. People give their lives to God, not to programs. How are you telling people about God? What experiences of God’s love are you sharing? 

The five questions above are based upon one big assumption. The assumption that you want to tell others about your experiences of who and what is important to you. 

Share Your Experience of God’s Love

The same is true of evangelism. When you experience God’s love so deeply that you want to tell others about it, you will find ways to share your experiences of God’s love. As God’s love affects your living and your relationships so significantly that you can’t keep it yourself and when God’s love in Jesus is primary in your life, you will find ways to share your experiences of God’s love. 

Remember, your new life in Christ comes through the grace of God. When you experience God’s love it will be too wonderful to keep to yourself. Your best evangelism is rooted in your deepest relationship. So, share the good news with everyone in everything you do and say. The world will be better for it! 

A person claimed to weave “biblical principles” into his business. When his business went bad and the stock market dropped, he left his investors to pay his debts and his customers to pick up the pieces. 

Another person talked about integrating biblical principles into her business. When her business fell on hard times and the stock market dropped, so did her livelihood. But she did not run away. She stayed and worked out a plan to pay back her investors and to care for her customers. 

No one respects a person who talks a good game but fails to play by the rules. You will have a greater impact by what you do as opposed to what you say. Most people will forget 90 percent of what you say, but they will never forget how you live.

Dishonesty and Lack of Integrity

In a day when “the end justifies the means” has become an acceptable mode of operation, do you justify acts of dishonesty for valid reasons? Consider these examples:

  • overpromise and under deliver
  • exaggerate in job interviews to secure a job
  • overstate budgets to get what you want
  • understate values to get a better deal
  • cover up mistakes so you don’t lose a customer
  • call in sick because you don’t have more paid time off

Each of the above examples is an act of dishonesty which in the end reveals a lack of integrity. 

Losing the Ability to be Trusted

It may seem like people can gain power quickly and easily if they are willing to cut corners and act without the constraints of integrity. Dishonesty may provide instant gratification for a moment, but it never lasts. What have you gained if you lose your ability to be trusted? 

Maybe that is why Paul wrote to Timothy: 

Put these things into practice, devote yourself to them, so that all may see your progress. Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; continue in these things, for in doing this you will save both yourself and your hearers.1 Timothy 4:15-16 

Paul tells Timothy to watch himself and his teaching. In other words, watch your life and your doctrine. Better yet, give careful attention to your behavior and belief. Make sure they match. Constantly examine yourself to see that your walk matches your talk and that your practice in life matches your profession of faith. 

Integrity is Forever

James Kouzes and Barry Posner in their book, Credibility: How Leaders Gain and Lose It, Why People Demand It, write, “If you step out into the unknown, the place to begin is with the exploration of the inner territory…”

If people are going to follow you whether into ministry, business, or the ballfield, they want to know if they can trust you. Do you keep your promises and follow through with your commitments? 

Brene Brown in Rising Strong: How the Ability to Reset Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead writes, “Integrity is choosing courage over comfort; choosing what is right over what is fun, fast, or easy; and choosing to practice our values rather than simply professing them.” 

Success will come and go, but integrity is forever. Integrity means doing the right thing at all times and in all circumstances, whether anyone is watching. It takes having the courage to do the right thing, no matter what the consequences. It takes years to build a reputation of integrity, but it takes a second to lose it. 

Integrity points to a consistency between what is inside and what is outside, between belief and behavior, your words and your ways, your attitudes and your actions, your values and your practice. 

Does Your Behavior Match Your Belief?

So, the question is, does your behavior match your belief? 

If the answer is “Yes”, every person who trusts you will spread the word that you are trustworthy, and the truth of your character will spread. The value of the trust others have in you is far beyond anything that can be measured.

At work, you will be trusted by colleagues and customers with more responsibility. In the home, you will be trusted by a spouse to be faithful and by your children to be present. It means you will have people willing to go the extra mile to help you because they know that recommending you to others will never bring damage to their own reputations.

When your behavior matches your belief, you will experience limitless opportunities and endless possibilities.

Maintain Your Integrity

So, as a leader, what do you do to maintain your integrity? You choose to be vulnerable and you develop your character.

First, choose to be vulnerable.

  • Integrity is a choice. Choose courage over comfort. Choose what is right over what is fun, fast, or easy. Choose to practice your values rather than simply professing them.
  • Be accountable. If you slip up, apologize. Make amends and make it right. It might be uncomfortable but being accountable will build trust and credibility. Don’t let one integrity slip alienate everyone around you.
  • Be transparent. Say what you mean, mean what you say and, of course, don’t be mean when you say it. Trust develops when people feel like they don’t need to keep up their guard.

Second, develop your character. 

  • Be kind to yourself. Stop the inner voice that is verbally and emotionally beating you up. Speak to yourself as you would speak to someone you love: your spouse, your child, your friend.
  • Be the person you want others to be. Modeling integrity and good character are much more effective than telling your team what to do. Showing that you’re always willing to make the difficult, courageous decisions build connection and trust.
  • Character is built one choice at a time. Integrity is all about consistency. It’s doing the right thing, for the right reason, even when no one is watching, even when you don’t want to.
  • Integrity comes from the Latin word “integer,” meaning whole. In every moment, and at every decision, lead from a place of wholeness. 

Do what is right and let the consequences follow. No one respects a person who talks a good game but fails to play by the rules. Remember, success will come and go, but integrity is forever.

  

 

Does what you say you value align with your behavior? 

Consider these three scenarios:

  • You love your family and enjoy the time you share with them. Even though you work 60 to 70 hours a week, you enjoy your work. Because you want to spend more time with your spouse and your children, you attempt to balance family time with your work schedule, but neither are getting your total attention or your best life. You are feeling tense, guilty, and alone. 
  • You consider yourself to be a person of your word. Whether it is with family, friends, or colleagues, you feel a sense of satisfaction, peace, and fulfillment when you complete a project as promised on time. But, when you don’t complete the project, in the time frame you set for yourself, you feel uneasy and uncomfortable. Even when the people around you are not concerned about it, you still feel as if you have not kept your word. 
  • You are a person of faith, a Jesus follower, and you feel comfortable with talking about your religious beliefs. You attend a Sunday School class with people who are also persons of faith but who do not share your views on particular issues. You like sharing your opinions and beliefs, but every Sunday you feel the tension when the class discussion begins. You enjoy the people in the class, but you are losing your patience with being on guard and not offending anyone. 

When your decisions and behaviors do not align, you experience the tension of conflicting values. In the midst of such conflict, it is important to know and to understand who you are and why you think and feel the way you do. 

When your thinking and behaving match your values, life is good. You feel satisfied, content, and at peace. But when your thoughts and actions do not align with your values, you feel tentative, off-balance, and filled with inner turmoil.

Consider Romans 7

The Apostle Paul understood conflicting values. He wrote to the Roman church:

I can anticipate the response that is coming: “I know that all God’s commands are spiritual, but I’m not. Isn’t this also your experience?” Yes. I’m full of myself—after all, I’ve spent a long time in sin’s prison. What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So, if I can’t be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God’s command is necessary.

But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.

It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.

I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?

The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different. (Romans 7:14-25 The Message)

Psalm 15Paul’s Conflict

The conflict is between the will of God revealed in the Law, and the grace of God revealed in Jesus Christ. The Law is “spiritual,” but Paul says he is not. So, he is struggling between living the life God wants him to live and the life he is living. His conflict is not between his “lower” nature and his “higher” nature but is upon being good enough on his own and upon relying upon God’s grace to live as a follower of Jesus.

Today, this conflict could be expressed between following the “words” of the scripture or following the “Word” to whom the scriptures point. 

David, in Psalm 15, reveals the values in his life.

GOD, who gets invited to dinner at your place? How do we get on your guest list? Walk straight, act right, tell the truth. Don’t hurt your friend, don’t blame your neighbor; despise the despicable. Keep your word even when it costs you, make an honest living, never take a bribe. You’ll never get blacklisted if you live like this. (Psalm 15, The Message)

Notice that David said the person who enjoys the presence of God, who gets invited to dinner, “walks straight, acts right, tells the truth.” Because this person values truth in her heart, her words express truth. Because she values kindness, she “doesn’t blame her neighbor.” Because she values honesty, she keeps her word even when it hurts. Because she makes an honest living, “she never takes a bribe.” 

Regardless of what might happen around him, David could live with confidence that the right principles shaped his values and guided his decisions. That confidence gave him emotional and spiritual stability. It enabled him to be the person God could use for God’s glory. 

As you examine your own life, what values do you see shaping your behavior? Maybe a better question is, what values do you want to shape your behavior?

As with Paul, many of you hold certain values, but you live differently from what you say is important to you. Unless you are intentional in discovering and understanding your values you will be shaped by the values of others.

You can’t have a set of values for work, another set for home, and still another set for your friends or for the church. Your goal should be to completely integrate your values into all areas of your life. 

What Informs Your Life?

When you know and honor your values, life is good. So, here is what I want you to do. Decide now, this moment, to give yourself 30 minutes to reflect upon the following (10 minutes for each):

  1. Identify the times when you were your happiest.

  • What were you doing?
  • Who were the people with you?
  • What were you thinking and feeling?
  • What really made you happy?
  1. Identify the times when you were most proud

  • Why were you proud?
  • Who were the people who shared your pride?
  • What did you think and feel at the moment?
  • What gave you your feelings of pride?
  1. Identify the times when you were most fulfilled and satisfied

  • What need or desire was fulfilled?
  • How and why did the experience give you meaning?
  • Were there other people who shared the moments with you? Who?
  • What else added to your feelings and fulfillment?

To reflect upon these questions will give you insight into what informs your life. You will discover and affirm what is important in the way you live, work, and make decisions. 

What is important to you?

Glenn Adsit was a minister in China. Toward the end of his tenure, he and his family were held captive in their house by the government. They could not leave their house to go to the fruit market without soldiers accompanying them. Then one day, while under house arrest, several soldiers came to them and said, “You can return to America.”

Glenn and his family were celebrating when the soldiers said, “You can take two hundred pounds with you. We will be back tomorrow to get you.”

They had been there for years. How were they going to get everything down to two hundred pounds? They got the scales out and began to weigh everything. That is when the family argument began. There were two children, a wife, and a husband. What about this vase? We just bought the typewriter. What about my books? They weighed everything. Finally, they had two hundred pounds down to the ounce. 

The next day, the soldiers came to get them. “Ready to go?” they asked.

“Yes.”

“Did you weigh everything?”

“Yes.”

Then the soldiers asked, “Did you weigh the kids?”

Glen replied, “No, we didn’t.”

They said, “Weigh the kids.”

It was at that moment, that the typewriter, vase, and everything else was not important.

So, what is important to you? When you know and honor your values, life is good. Are you living the way you want to live? Is life turning out the way you want it to turn out? 

Today, you have the opportunity to do something about it. What one thing are you going to do?