You want to live a life of significance. That makes you human. You want to make a difference in the lives of your children, spouse, friends, colleagues, community, and world. That makes you a compassionate human. You work to make your efforts be worth something.

But, let me ask this question: Are your actions aligned with your values and what you do best? It’s likely there is a lack of focus for you. Again, welcome to being human.

It could even be that as much as you want to make a difference, you live with internal conflict and uncertainty that demands your attention. Let’s explore what and where you can focus so that you can accomplish your desired outcomes.

The Mission

At work, your company has a mission.  The mission is posted on the wall in strategic places throughout the building.  As much as you seek to align your work with the mission, you notice that when it comes to making decisions, the mission is nowhere to be found as a guide in moving forward.  It is on the wall, but it never becomes part of the culture.

Over the past 45 years, I have intentionally focused on the mission of the church.  I help develop systems that focus on assisting individuals to discover and develop their purpose. I also help people do this as a congregation.  Ultimately, I want individuals and congregations to keep the focus of their ministry aligned with their mission.

Focused to a Fault

At times, keeping a focus upon the mission has been offensive and inconvenient.  There have been times when I was accused of being “focused to a fault.”

At those moments I am challenged to be centered upon the God who has created me, live into who God created me to be and to reaffirm my purpose. Through prayer and reflection, I turn to search the scriptures for direction and confirmation.

When it comes to focus, I often turn to Luke 9:51-53.  It reads like this:

“When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; but they did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem.”

Jesus had set his face toward Jerusalem because he was focused upon being who God had created him to be.  His purpose was to be the Christ, the anointed one.

To live into his purpose, he was obedient to God by caring for the people he encountered each day. He gave his life in such a way that he was living beyond himself. In Luke’s story, we read of Jesus feeding, healing, caring, loving, dying as he lived into his purpose.

What I have learned is that you have an ultimate purpose that is greater than your own life.  To be focused upon your purpose is to live beyond yourself. Let me illustrate with a story.

Is Your Purpose Greater Than You

Terry Fox was eighteen years old when he discovered he had cancer. He was diagnosed with fast-metastasizing cancer.  He settled in his legs and arms and later spreads to his lungs, brain, and liver. After the agony of his new reality set in, Terry basically had two choices: give up hope and wait for death or discover something meaningful for which to live.

He chose the latter.  Cancer meant he would lose his leg.  As he lay in his hospital bed, he dreamed of running across Canada.  That day he made a commitment to make his dream a reality.

By committing his life to make a difference in the fight against cancer, he created a true purpose.  The goal of his one-legged run, named the Marathon of Hope, was to raise one million dollars for cancer research.

A New Purpose: Hope

Terry discovered a purpose so great it uplifted him physically and mentally. This power of purpose drove him to remarkable heights of performance.  Even though he had only one healthy leg, a prosthesis attached to the stump of his other leg enabled him to run.

While running, he often wore running shorts. This, of course, exposed his false leg and made some people feel uncomfortable. Instead of trying to please the people who were offended, he lived into who he was.

His response was, “This is me, why hide it?”  Starting out on April 12, 1980, he ran the equivalent of a marathon (twenty-six miles) almost every day, covering a total of 3,339 miles in only 143 days. His amazing feat provided hope for thousands of people all over the world.

In the midst of cancer, Terry Fox successfully forged a new purpose.  His purpose was to help eliminate cancer.  His goal was to raise one million dollars for cancer research.  He met his goal living into his purpose. When he aligned his everyday living, his goals, with his purpose, he enjoyed the peace of mind and a wonderful sense of being alive.

Becoming Who God Created You to Be

What does that story have to do with you?  I am convinced you can do the same.  You can become who God created you to be by focusing upon your purpose.  As you live into your purpose will you make a difference, a life-changing difference, in the lives of the people around you and the world?

First – Discover Your Purpose

Here are a few questions to consider:

  • What are your strengths and talents?
  • What do you do best?
  • What do you really enjoy?
  • Where do you feel you are making a difference?
  • What do you care so deeply about that you are ready to give your life to make it happen?

Terry Fox was profoundly touched by younger cancer victims.  Those persons spurred him on every day, despite the hardships.

Remember, your purpose is bigger than you and will live on after you. What legacy will you leave for those who follow you?

If you want to explore how to leverage your strengths or help your team leverage their strengths, contact us.

 

Second – Align Your Purpose with Your Natural Strengths and Talents.

Terry Fox aligned his purpose with something he really enjoyed.  He excelled at running, so running across the country became a natural vehicle for him to achieve his goal.

You have unique strengths and talents.  Discovering your strengths is part of living your life.

Once you have discovered your strengths, then use your natural strengths and talents to live out your purpose.  Remember, the greatest joy and peace of your life comes when you align your everyday living, your goals, with your purpose.

Listen to Episode 103 of the Podcast to learn how getting clarity drives connections with others and brings your purpose to life.

Third – Stay Focused on Your Purpose

Every day Terry Fox stayed true to his purpose. Despite snow, rain, and sleet, he set his heart, soul, mind, and strength on something bigger than himself. In the early stages of his run, there was almost no media coverage.  He sometimes felt alone and misunderstood.  He overcame that by keeping his purpose at the forefront of his mind.

It is okay to be “focused to a fault.”

Too often, you lose your direction in life because you are easily distracted or influenced by other people. Living your purpose requires single-mindedness, a resolve to do whatever it takes. Staying focused will create a deep passion and a sense of significance deep within which will shape your everyday living and relationships.

Remember, it is a compliment to be “focused to a fault,” especially when your purpose is assisting others to become who God created them to be.

Fourth – Stay True to Your Purpose

In the later stages of his Marathon of Hope, Terry Fox attracted thousands of people in every major city. His attitude throughout was, “Whom am I among all these people? I am no better or no worse than anyone else.  There are a lot of other people involved with this, and they deserve recognition too.”

It was this humble outlook and genuine concern for others, plus his never-give-up attitude as he battled adversity, that endeared him to millions of people.  Even after cancer spread to his lungs, he was determined to carry on.

Terry never got to finish his run.  He died on June 28, 1981.  Yet, the ongoing legacy he left continues to help cancer victims.  Terry Fox stayed true to his purpose which allowed him to live beyond himself.

So, stay true to your purpose.  Don’t allow an unhealthy ego to override your good intentions.  You will have your greatest and most positive impact on your family, friends, and community because you are focused upon something greater than yourself.

Align Your Strengths & Purpose

Remember, when you align your strengths with your purpose and stay focused upon your purpose, your life will have meaning.  You will close your eyes at night with a feeling of fulfillment instead of worrying about all the day-to-day stuff that creates stress and tension.

I don’t know what season of life you are living at the moment, but I do know this; discovering and developing your purpose, then living your purpose indicates that you will make a significant difference in the lives of your family, friends, and community.

You will leave a legacy.

So, set your heart and mind upon the person God has created you to be. As you live into your purpose, care for God’s people you encounter along the way each day. Give your life in such a way that you live beyond yourself.

Your Next Step

Wondering your next step to grow as a Jesus? Take the quick, 5 question quiz. You’ll unlock your “Season” and learn your next steps to grow as a Jesus follower.

As you’ll soon learn, two of the Seasons of Following Jesus focus on claiming your gifts and talents and aligning your purpose. What season are you in the midst of right now? Learn more with the quiz.

You are known. You are valued. It might even be you are seen for who you are and what you have done. I don’t know a person who doesn’t want those things. As human beings, it’s likely your desire to be taken seriously and to be valued for who God created you to be.

Again, I don’t know a person who feels complete when he or she feels marginalized. Settling for less than who you know you truly are, robs us of wholeness.

The writer of the Psalms agrees.

“…I praise you because I have been remarkably and wonderfully made.” (Psalm 139:14).

You are uniquely created by God. You are one of God’s great accomplishments.

The Baptism of Jesus

The story of the baptism of Jesus affirms it as well. “…And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” (Luke 3:22).

When you are baptized, you are claimed by God and given a purpose. In fact, God says, “You are mine and I am proud of you.”

Even though you have been “remarkably and wonderfully made” and have been claimed by God as God’s very own, there are times you don’t live into who God has created you to be. Sometimes you just want to fit in because it is too painful or difficult to stand out. So, you live into less than who God intends for you.  Sometimes, you conform to a group’s standards because you “don’t want to draw attention to yourself,” or “rock the boat,” or “that’s the way things are done.” So, you give up a part of yourself to be a part of the group.

God has created you with unique talents that are to be used for God’s purposes.  But there are times you don’t explore or live into what gives you meaning and purpose because you feel selfish or you feel like you are taking a place that does not belong to you.

Who Are You?

I know how you feel, and I know what you are thinking.  I have lived much of my life with a false humility, saying that “I’m not good enough” or afraid to step out and lead, when deep inside knowing that it’s God’s goodness, not mine, that matters and that I have been given certain strengths and talents to lead in a particular and needed way. A few years ago, just to survive, I had to accept God’s claim on my life and live into the uniqueness of my personality and strengths. 

I went through a season of rediscovering myself and who God had created me to be.  As I listened to God say, “You are my child. I love you and I am proud of you,” I heard friends and colleagues say, “We believe in you.” Sometimes, to become who God created you to be, you have to answer the question, “What does it mean when someone believes in you when you do not believe in yourself?”

I don’t know what season of life or leadership you are in at this point in time, but I do know that to be whole and to be at peace with yourself and with others, to be who God created you to be, you have to be clear about who you are and your purpose in life.

So, here is what I want you to do.  This is for you and it is not hard to do.  I want you to take a few minutes to focus upon yourself and reflect upon what follows. 

Live into Your Name

As a Jesus follower, accept Who You Are. You have a name.  Live into your name. Let’s do it this way.

    Ross Marrs tells the story of being a teenager.  Before he went out on a date or to be with his friends, his dad you say, “Come here, Son.  What is your name?” 

     “Ross.”

     “What is your last name?”

     “Marrs.”

     His dad then would ask, “How do you spell that?”

     Ross would reply, “M-A-R-R-S.”

     His dad would say, “Does that sound like Smith, Altizer, or Miller?”

     Ross would reply, “No.”

     Then his dad would say, “So, be a Marrs.  Behave as a Marrs.”

As a Jesus follower, your name is Christian.  How do you spell that? C-H-R-I-S-T-I-A-N. Accept who you are.  You will become who you were created to be as you live into your name. Reflect upon how you can live more into your name as Christian.

Be At Home With God and With God’s Children. 

You have a home where you are not a stranger or a guest but God’s beloved child.       

You will become more who God created you to be when you allow God to shape your life and your living through relationships, through the people around you. Sometimes God will shape you through family, sometimes through friends, other times through colleagues or co-workers, and often times through strangers or enemies.

Take time to notice where God is showing up in the people around you. Experience God’s love through your children, grandchildren, spouse, nieces and nephews.  Begin to live as God’s beloved child and be generous with God’s other children who are loved as well. Become vulnerable in your relationships so that your heart and arms are open to God in and through your interactions. As you look for God, you will become more at home with God. 

Isaac Watts wrote these words:

Your sure provision gracious God attend me all my days.

Oh, may your house be my abode, and all my work be praise.

Here would I find a settle rest, while others go and come;

No more a stranger, nor a guest, but like a child at home.

As a Jesus follower, you have a home. Your home is God. You will become who you were created to be when you are at home with God. Reflect upon how you can become more at home with God and God’s children. 

You Have A Purpose.

Your purpose is God’s business. 

You become who you were created to be when you see yourself involved in God’s business. Claim this reality: You have been chosen by God. You are God’s daughter, you are God’s son, you are loved. God is proud of you.  There is nothing you can do to earn God’s choosing or to deserve God’s love. God has already named you and claimed you. But you can decide to be about God’s business.    

As a Jesus follower, living into your name and being at home with God, you have the opportunity and responsibility to live as a loving, caring, healing, feeding, living, dying, rising child of God.

Look at Jesus, still wet from his baptism, he left the Jordan and went about God’s business.  Every crying person, every brokenhearted person, every hungry person, every diseased person, every alienated person, every suffering person was his business. God’s business was his business. He was to serve the needs of every human being.

As a Jesus follower, your purpose is God’s business. Want to become who you are created to be? Give yourself to the purpose for which you were created. Reflect upon how God has created you and how you were created to be a part of God’s business. 

If you’d like a little help with these reflections. Take the 5 question quiz we put together. Determine your “Season” of following Jesus and uncover your next step to grow as a Jesus follower.

What’s Your Business?

Let me wrap it up with this. My friend, Fred, tells the story of being a pastor, in a small town, early in his ministry.  The town’s population was about 450 people on a good day. He also said there were four churches in that town, with each church having its share of the population. 

     He said the best and most consistent attendance in town was at the little café where all men gathered on Sunday morning. While their wives and children were in one of four churches, the men discussed the weather, their cattle, their crops, etc. Although the church attendance would rise and fall according to the weather or to times of harvest, the café had consistently good attendance.  Better attendance than some of the churches. The men were always there.

     Fred said the patron saint of the group at the café was Frank.  Frank was a seventy-seven years old man when Fred met him. He was a good man, a strong man, a farmer, and a cattleman.  He had “pulled himself up by his bootstraps” and had earned his credentials. All the men at the café considered him their leader. Fred said, “I heard one man laugh and say, ‘Old Frank will never go to church.’”

     One day Fred met Frank on the street. They visited for a few minutes before Frank took the offensive.  He said, “I work hard, I take care of my family, and I mind my own business.” He said that as far as he was concerned, everything else was fluff.  Fred said, “I took what he said as, ‘Leave me alone; I’m not a prospect.’”

     So, Fred did not bother Frank.  But Fred said, “I was surprised, indeed the church was surprised, and the whole town was surprised, and the men at the café were absolutely bumfuzzled, when old Frank, seventy-seven years old, presented himself before me one Sunday morning for baptism.”

     There were some in the community who said that Frank must be sick and that he must be scared to meet his maker.  Others said, “He has heart trouble. I never thought old Frank would ever go up to be baptized.” 

     Fred said he and Frank were talking the day after his baptism and Fred asked him, “Frank, do you remember that little saying you used to give me? ‘I work hard, I take care of my family, and I mind my own business?’” 

     Frank replied, “Yeah, I remember.  I said that a lot.”

     Fred asked, “Do you still say that?”

     “Yes.”

     “Then what’s the difference?”

     Frank replied, “Back then I didn’t know what my business was.”

God’s Business

Frank discovered his business was God’s business. He went into the water minding his own business but came out of the water minding God’s business.

Want to become who God created you to be? Live into your name, become at home with God, and give yourselves to God’s business.  It is with God and God’s business that you will find peace within yourself and in your relationships.

Here we are at the beginning, not only of another year but of new decade. You have decided things in your life are going to be different. Things like your health. You are going to change your diet and eat nutritiously. You are going to exercise, lose weight, and get more sleep. Things like spending your money are going to be different. You are going to save money for the kids’ college expenses, save to beef up the retirement fund, or save for that anniversary trip you have been planning. 

You have been thinking about these things for months, just waiting for the right time to get started. So, what better time than the beginning of a new year? 

Will This Year Be Different?

Yet, there is a problem. Your health will not improve, and you will not save money just by saying you want to be healthy or you need to save money. If your life is going to be different, you will have to be different. 

At the beginning of this new year and decade, you can develop new ways of living by changing your habits and behaviors. The word for such a change of living is “repentance.” 

Now, before you say, “Tim Bias has lost his mind” and stop reading, trust me enough to take the next step. Over my 65 years, I’ve stood at this juncture a few times. The only way I am able to make a difference in my life is to change my living.

An “Aha” Moment

As you enter this new year, you also enter a time of new discoveries. It is time for an “aha” moment in your life. 

It will be your “aha” that will bring you to the point of changing your living. I believe the story of Jesus’ baptism gives us clues to such an “aha” moment. 

So, together, let’s start a new habit. Let’s read scripture, reflect upon it, respond to it and return to it before we put our head on the pillow each night. This pattern of reading, reflecting, responding, and returning is key to developing new habits and changes of behavior.

So, let’s get started. 

  1. Read the Scripture 

Let’s start with Luke 3:21-22.

Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” (Luke 3:21-22

2. Reflect on the Scripture.

Now, the question is, “What does God have for me in this scripture?” or “What is the ‘Aha’ for me in this scripture?” Let’s look at the context for a clue. You may not take it as far as I have below. But, give yourself an opportunity to explore what is happening in the scripture.

The Background

There is a lot in the background of this story, but for our purpose of reflection, we know that John the Baptist was the one preparing the way for the Christ, the Messiah. When people wondered if John was the Christ, he said, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, whose shoes I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” 

The people knew enough about what he was saying to be afraid. The Holy Spirit of God was one thing, sweeping across their souls like a wind from heaven, but fire was something else altogether. Fire was a purifier. You might be a better person for having gone through the fire, but it was going to hurt, and the scars would be ugly. 

The Presence of Jesus

Can you imagine people’s surprise when Jesus shows up? 

He is not at all who they expected. He was not an ax carrying arsonist. He was a gentle carpenter in whom the Holy Spirit chose to take up residence and who God claimed as his own beloved son. At that point, people were so taken back, they did not believe that Jesus could be the Christ. They were a lot like some people today. It is easier to believe in an angry God than in a loving one. 

So, Jesus did not take over John the Baptist’s ministry. Instead, he got in line with a whole crowd of sorry-looking people and took his turn in the water like everyone else. Nothing unusual there. 

It is only after his baptism, as he is praying, that the remarkable thing happened. Heaven opened, the clouds parted, and a figure that looked like a dove, straight from God, settled on Jesus as a voice from somewhere other than earth told him what it meant, “You are my beloved son, and I am proud of you.” What words! What acceptance!

A Defining Moment

Now, what did Jesus do that was so pleasing?

He was at the beginning of his ministry. All he had done so far is to say, “yes” to ministry. And what was that? He came to be with us in human flesh and blood. When he joined us, a voice from heaven declared, “You are my beloved son and I am pleased with you.” At that moment, you have a God-given description of who Jesus is and what he has come to do. You have a public declaration of what his ministry is about. 

So, what is the “Aha” moment? 

Jesus goes into the waters of the Jordan a carpenter and comes out a Messiah. He is the same person, but with a new direction. His “being” is the same, but his “doing” takes a radical turn. 

That is the definition of repentance: to turn, to go another way, to go God’s way. So, in that sense, it is true that Jesus repented; if not of sin, then of going his own quiet way in peace. He enters the water his own person, a private man. He comes out as God’s person, a public figure at the center of controversy for the rest of his life. 

Why Baptism?

But why baptism? Why not an eloquent speech or a simple ordination to mark his passage in life? Why not make a piece of furniture? After all, he is a carpenter.

  • Why did he become human when he could have stayed God? 
  • Why was he baptized when he could have stayed on the banks of the Jordan and supervised? 
  • Why does he come to you where you are, over and over again, when he could have saved himself the grief, the pain, the death, by insisting that we come to him where he is?
  • Do you know what I think? 

It is because he loves you. 

Because he is unbelievably pleased with you. He has come to lead you through the waters of life and death. He has come to make you who God created you to be. It has never been his style to shout directions from some safe place of his own. He has always led by joining you and me in the situations and circumstances of our lives.  

The Path of Jesus 

Here is the “aha” moment. 

If he had not been baptized, that would have been sin for him. He could have chosen to separate himself from us. He had every right to do so. But he didn’t. He took the plunge right along with the rest of us and so it came to pass that he who was without sin was baptized in the River Jordan to avoid the sin of standing apart from us.

Jesus is “God with us.” He never asks you to go anywhere he has not been first. From birth to death, from cradle to grave, through the waters of baptism, he knows what you are up against and has shown you how to live so that you might have a life full of peace and joy. 

He has chosen God’s way. He has chosen what will bring us closer together. Above all, he has chosen the things of earth to carry out the purposes of heaven.

3. Respond to the Scripture.

This is where you incorporate what God has revealed in your daily life. If Jesus is God with us, what would happen if today you started paying attention to where you noticed Jesus is with you. Yes, Jesus is always with you. The question is, when did you notice Jesus’ presence?

Here are a few other questions to consider:

  • Where will you see God in your everyday living? 
  • With whom will you join their struggles, pain, celebrations, or joy? 
  • Where will you enter as your person but leave as God’s person? 

Let’s return to where many of us start the year. If you are going to be healthy, you’ll need to exercise and eat nutritiously. That takes more than wishful thinking. It takes intentionally reading your environment, reflecting on what needs to change and responding in intentional ways that lead to a new habit and behavior. And daily, you’ll need to reflect on what worked and what didn’t. 

The same is true in our life with Christ.

If you want to grow as a follower of Jesus, here is what you need to do: 

  1. Read the scripture each day.
  2. Reflect upon the scripture asking yourself, “What does God have for me in what I am reading?” 
  3. Respond by incorporating what God has for you in your everyday living.
  4. Return each night and reflect on how you incorporated your “aha” into your daily life.

This habit will change your life. You will begin to have “aha” moments that will bring depth and meaning to every situation and circumstance. 

  1. Return

No, I didn’t forget step 4.

My reflections often come in the form of a story. So I’ll leave you with this story to model how an “aha” with Jesus can lead to transformation in daily life.

Fred Craddock tells of a conversation he had with a man in a restaurant in the Great Smoky Mountains. It a witness to one man’s “aha” moment. 

The man said, “I grew up in these mountains. My mother was not married, and the whole community knew it. I was called an “illegitimate” child. In those days that was a shame, and I was ashamed. The reproach that fell on her, fell on me. When I went into town with her, I could see people staring at me, making guesses as to who my father was. At school the children said ugly things to me. So, I stayed to myself during recess and I ate my lunch alone.”

He said, “In my early teens I began to attend a little church back in the mountains. It had a minister who was both attractive and frightening. He had a chiseled face, a heavy beard, and a deep voice. I went to hear him preach. I don’t know exactly why, but it did something for me. But when I would go, I was afraid I would not be welcome. So, I would go just in time for the sermon, and when it was over, I would leave because I was afraid that someone would say, ‘What’s a boy like you doing in church’.”

“One Sunday some people moved into the aisle before I could get out, and I was trapped. Before I could make my way through the group, I felt a heavy hand on my shoulder. It was that minister. I saw him out of the corner of my eye. I caught a glimpse of his beard and his chin. I trembled in fear.” 

“He turned his face around so he could see mine. I knew what he was doing. He was going to make a guess as to who my father was. A moment later he said, “Well, son, you are a child of…” and he paused there. And I knew what was coming. I knew I would have my feelings hurt. I knew I would not go back again. 

He said, ‘Son, you are a child of God. I see a striking resemblance.’ Then he said, ‘Now you go claim your inheritance.’”

The man said, “I left that church building a different person. In fact, that was really the beginning of my life.”

What will be your “aha” in 2020? 

Listen closely. I just heard a voice from heaven say, “You are my beloved child. I am proud of you. Now, go claim your inheritance!” 

Your Next Step

If you’d like to get into this “habit” of reading, reflecting, responding and returning, join the Facebook group, “Following Jesus Every Day” Every Sunday evening, we post a series of scriptures for the week that follow this pattern.

Uncertain what your next step is to grow as a follower of Jesus? Take this quick, five-question quiz. You’ll identify a “season” of following Jesus and what to do next.

 

Have you been reflecting upon life recently? I have. We have come, not only to the end of another year but to the end of a decade.

Wow! Time flies when you are having… I suppose that is another blog. 

I have many more years behind me than I have in front of me. I’ve been reflecting upon the past 4 ½ decades of ministry. I hope you don’t mind giving this “old” man a few minutes to share with you some things I have learned.

This list is neither exhaustive nor in priority order. Here are 10 things I have learned over 45 years of ministry.

Read more

When it comes to Christmas, you want everything to be perfect. Whether it is the tree, the decorations around the house, the food prepared for the family dinner, or the music heard only at this time of year, the Christmas preparations must be perfect.

So, you schedule your time and plan your activities. You have your lists.  Lists for gifts and menus. Lists of names of all who will be present for dinner. You remind yourself that you will not forget the “reason for the season.” So, you hum the carols and you recite the readings. Besides, you know the story so well you can tell it by heart. You have everything planned and perfectly in place.

Read more

Before you say, “How can angels be courageous?” Stick with me. The messengers of God have a word for us about courage.

When I consider the messengers of God – the real-life angels among us – the people who speak God’s truth, embody God’s love and call forth grace in others, I can tell you about some of the most courageous people I know.

  • She is the one who challenges the long-held assumptions with grit, grace, and gumption. She steps onto a platform once reserved for men and owns the space as a brave, clear, loving determined leader.
  • He is the one who loves unconditionally, speaking his mind by telling his heart every chance he gets…and even when the stress of in-laws and out-laws are driving his blood pressure to new heights.
  • They are the ones whose arms are open to the least of these – the children. The ones caught in an unending cycle of neglect, abuse, divorce, crime, addiction, lack of care, and much, much more.

They do not judge. Instead, they embrace. 

They do not rant. Instead, they open their doors. 

They do not demand that others should embrace their cause, but model compassion, grace, conviction, and adaptability like no other.

And none of the above people would consider themselves angels.

But, here’s why I call them God’s messengers.

Read more

It is the first week of Advent.

Time to reread the Christmas story and become familiar again with Gabriel visiting Mary, of Elizabeth becoming pregnant well past her childbearing years, of Zechariah being silenced because of his lack of faith, of Jesus being born in a stable manger, of the choir of angels singing to shepherds in the fields, of visitors bringing gifts from the East, of the dreams of Joseph, and of Mary pondering all these things in her heart.  Wow! What a story! It is Advent. Time to anticipate and prepare for Emmanuel, “God with us.”  

As Christmas approaches, we yearn to experience again the excitement, the joy, and the wonder of the baby born to humble parents, Mary and Joseph. The story of Christmas tells us of God’s dramatic way of coming to be with us, at the time and in the way, we need God the most. 

When you read the story, you recognize that courage makes this season possible.  The theme of courage comes to the surface over and over again. Over these few short days before Christmas, let’s explore the courage of the persons in the story.  This week, through LeaderCast, we looked at the Courage of Mary. Today, let’s look at the courage of Joseph. Remember the story?

Engagement

Joseph was engaged to Mary. Engagement back then was like a marriage.  It was serious business, legal and binding in nature. It could only be broken by going to the courts. So, the families of Joseph and Mary came together, signed the papers, and the engagement began. Only when they became of age, would they marry. So, to say that Joseph was engaged to Mary is significant.  

While they are engaged, Joseph discovers that Mary is pregnant.  Now, what is he going to do? He is a good man, a righteous man, a man who wants to do the right thing. That’s great, but what is the right thing? How do you know? Here is a businessman in the community and his fiancée is pregnant. What is he to do?

Joseph’s Options

There are several options available to Joseph. 

Seeking Approval

  • He could seek out the approval of his friends. Joseph could go to the coffee shop and ask, “What do you think I ought to do?” He could get on the phone, go to work, sit in a Sabbath school class, and tell everyone who will listen, “Did you hear about Mary? What do you think I ought to do?” 

Could you blame him for seeking approval?  We elect people to public office and remove people from positions based upon their approval ratings. What do the polls say?  Joseph could have sought out the approval of his friends. 

Making it About Himself

  • He could make it about himself. Joseph could tell his side of the story and expose Mary for being unfaithful. He could disgrace her and humiliate her. “Did you hear about Mary? Can you believe what she did to me? She seemed like such a nice girl.” 

In fact, Matthew tells us that, “Joseph, her husband was a righteous man. Because he didn’t want to humiliate her, he decided to call off their engagement quietly.” He didn’t want to humiliate her. But, quietly calling off the engagement could also mean he was saving himself from being embarrassed.

Quoting Scripture

  • He could do what the Bible says to do.  You can’t go wrong by following the Bible, because the Bible makes very clear.    

You can quote the Bible before killing a person to justify the killing. “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” Men, you can quote the Bible before divorcing your wife, “If a man finds something displeasing in his wife, let him give her a divorce and send her out of the house.” It’s in the Bible. Women, do you know what the Bible says? “Let the women keep their heads covered and their mouths shut.” Joseph could do just what the Bible says, “She is to be taken out and stoned to death in front of the people.” (Deuteronomy 22)

The Above are Not Viable Options

Now, let me be clear.  For me, these are not viable options. I mention them, not only because they were available to Joseph, but because each of them is used when you lack the courage to become vulnerable. You engage in them when you are unclear of your purpose and when you are not looking for God in the midst of your everyday living and relationships. 

Respond as a Person of Grace, Goodness, Love

  • Joseph could be who God created him to be. He has experienced God’s presence in his life.  God’s messenger visited him in a dream. He has been blessed through his study of the scriptures. He has read his Bible through the lens of the character and nature of a God who is loving and kind. So, he says, “I will not harm her, abuse her, expose her, shame her, ridicule her, or demean her value, her dignity, or her worth. I will protect her.” 

I am amazed at the courage of Joseph.  He is the first person in the New Testament who learned how to read the Bible. He lives into who God created him to be by responding as a person of grace, goodness, and love.

Again, let me be clear. When reading the Bible, you find justification for abusing, humiliating, disgracing, harming, or hurting, especially when it makes you feel better about yourself, you are absolutely wrong. That is not courage. It’s manipulation. 

Advent and the Courage of Joseph

Reading Through the Lens of Grace

The Bible is to be read in light of the character of God.  It is to be read through the lens of the grace, the goodness, and the love of God when you are deciding how you will respond to the people around you. 

So, what does Joseph do? He becomes vulnerable.  He steps out in courage and listens to God’s messenger.  In a dream, God says, “Go ahead and marry her. I want you to take care of her. I have chosen you to raise her boy.” God says, “Joseph, I want you to raise the baby. You feed the baby. Joseph, care for the mother. You care for the baby.” He becomes who God intends for him to be.

Every Christmas, I marvel at how this story hits the world with the force of a hint.  We want God to be God, but God wants to be a human baby in a manger. We want God to be strong so that we can be weak, but God wants to be weak so that we can be strong. 

God, in Jesus, came to earth, not to overpower, but to empower. William Sloan Coffin wrote, “He (Christ) came to provide maximum support but minimum protection. It is precisely his support that should help you stop sheltering yourself between the covers of the Bible…” 

Your Turn

So, here is what I hope you will do this Advent Season:

  1. Read the Advent/Christmas Story – Every day read part of the story.
    • Download the Advent Bible Reading Guide
    • Become familiar with each character. Put yourself in the story.
    • After reading the story or stories, ask God to help you identify those characters in your everyday life, work, and play.
  2. Reflect upon the story.
    • Throughout the day or at the end of the day, ask yourself:
      • Where do I see God in the story?  Where do I see God in my life? Do you see God in my family, my work, and/or in my community?
      • Where did the story become real for me today? Make a note to share your reflection with someone you trust, then share it.
  3. Respond in the following ways:
    • Become vulnerable.  Let God’s Word become flesh in you.  What is one thing you will do today or tomorrow that will reflect the nature of God’s grace, goodness, and love? 
    • Be courageous. Express your gratitude by specifically reaching out in some form of kindness, care, or compassion. What one thing will you do to be who God created you to be?

The Courage of Joseph

It is Advent.  The baby is not born yet; Mary is not even in labor, but it is already Christmas because of the vulnerability and the courage of Joseph. Because Joseph decided to be who God created him to be, I know that when Jesus is born, the man who will teach him, raise him, care for him, show him how to be a carpenter, take him to the synagogue, and teach him his Bible, is a good man. He is a man of God’s grace, goodness, and love. 

When you have somebody with that kind of courage, it is already Christmas. 

If God can find someone in every family, in every community, in every church who says, “I will do what is right,” it is Christmas. 

What is right?

To read the Scripture and to read the human condition in the light of the love, grace, and kindness of God. As long as there is one person in every situation, it will be Christmas. The question is whether or not you have the heart to be that person.

It is the first week of Advent.  Do you have the courage to be who God created you to be?

Advent Bible Reading Guide

Over the past several weeks I have been asking friends and colleagues, “For what are you grateful?”  

One friend thought a moment and said, “I am grateful for the paperweight on my desk.  I have had it for over 30 years.  It is an ordinary rock that has red and yellow paint splattered on it. It is not worth much, but I wouldn’t sell it for any amount of money in the world. My son was 5 years old when he made it for me in a Sunday School class. It is a symbol of his love.  

Another friend said, “I love the homemade greeting card I got from my daughter. On the front of the card, she drew a picture of the earth and wrote the words, “To the World’s Most Sweetest Mom.” Inside the card she wrote, “Happy Birthday,” then scratched through it and wrote, “Happy Mother’s Day.” She signed the card, “Love, Sarah (6 years old)” When she gave me the card, she pointed out her mistake inside and said, “Even though I made a mistake, you are the same Mom.” 

Other friends and colleagues named things like family, friends, work, relationships. One person even said, “I’m grateful for my district superintendent.”

Well, how cool is that?   

The Practice of Gratitude

As I have listened, I have learned three things about you: 

  1. You are people of gratitude.  
  2. You are most grateful for your relationships 
  3. Your gifts are valuable because of the giver of those gifts.  

I think that is genuine gratitude.  Focusing upon the giver of the gift rather than on the gift itself. To paraphrase Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, “You can gain the whole world and all the gifts in it, but without gratitude, you will miss the giver and lose your soul.” Celebrating the giver rather than the gift is the point. When you make that breakthrough, you will never be the same. That kind of gratitude will change your life.

So, let’s put our gratitude into action.  I want you to think of someone for whom you are grateful.  Someone who has brought love, joy, and gladness into your life. Someone who, because of their generosity, has changed your life. Get that person’s face in our mind and name on your lips.

Two Sides of Gratitude

Now, let me tell you about Bonnie Shepherd.  She was having surgery two weeks before Christmas. She said it was a terrible time to be in the hospital, but her husband assured her that he could take care of things at home. But she wrote, “Christmas baking, shopping, and decorating would have to wait.”

She said, “I struggled to open my eyes after sleeping for almost two days following surgery. As I became more alert, I looked around to what seemed like a Christmas floral shop.  Red poinsettias and other bouquets crowded the windowsill. A stack of cards waited to be opened. On the stand next to my bed stood a small tree decorated with ornaments my children had made.  The shelf over the sink held a dozen red roses from my parents…and a yule log with candles from our neighbor. I was overwhelmed by all the love and attention.”

That day, she watched a heavy snowfall outside the hospital window.  She began thinking about her four children. Her husband had told her that friends had brought meals and offered to care for the children. She began to imagine them bundled in their snowsuits building a backyard snowman and skating at the outdoor ice rink. Then, she thought of her son, Adam.  He had a physical disability. At age 5 he had just started walking independently. She worried about him on the ice and snow with his thin ankles. She wondered if anyone would take him for a sled ride?

More Flowers

About that time, she heard the nurse’s voice, “More flowers!”  The nurse handed her the card from the beautiful centerpiece and then made room for the bouquet among the poinsettias on the windowsill. She took more cards from her pocket and put them on the tray.  Before leaving the room, she pulled back the pale green privacy curtain between the two beds.

While Bonnie was reading her get-well cards, she heard, “Yep, I like those flowers.” It was the woman in the bed beside her.  She had pushed the curtain aside so she could see better. “Yep, I like those flowers,” she said again.

Bonnie said her roommate was a small 40-something woman with Down’s syndrome.  She had short, curly, gray hair and brown eyes. Her hospital gown hung untied around her neck, and when she moved forward it exposed her bareback.  Bonnie said she wanted to tie it for her but she was still connected to an IV. The woman stared at the flowers with childlike wonder.

Bonnie spoke to her.  “I’m Bonnie. What’s your name?”

“Ginger,” she said, rolling her eyes toward the ceiling and pressing her lips together after she spoke.  “Doc’s gonna fix my foot. I’m going to have suur-jeree tomorrow.”

Bonnie and Ginger talked until dinnertime. Ginger told her about the group home where she lived and how she wanted to get back for her Christmas party.  She never mentioned a family. Every few minutes she reminded Bonnie of her surgery scheduled for the next morning saying, “Doc’s gonna fix my foot.”   

Plans and Visitors

That evening, Bonnie had several visitors, including her son Adam. Ginger talked with everyone who entered the room, telling each of them about Bonnie’s pretty flowers.  She kept an eye on Adam. Later that evening, when everyone had gone, Ginger repeated over and over how much she liked the flowers and then she said, “I like your Adam too.”

The next morning, while Ginger was in surgery, the nurse helped Bonnie take a walk down the hall.  When she returned to her room, she noticed the contrast between the two sides of the room. Ginger’s bed was neatly made, waiting for her return.  But she had no cards, no flowers, and no visitors. Bonnie said her side of the room bloomed with flowers, and the stack of get-well cards reminded her of just how much she was loved.

No one sent Ginger flowers or cards.  Bonnie began to wonder if it was going to be that way for Adam one day.  She quickly decided that she would give Ginger something. Some of her flowers.    

Justified Guilt?

She walked to the window and picked up the red-candled centerpiece with holly sprigs.  She thought, “This would look great on our Christmas dinner table.” So, she set the piece down. What about the poinsettias? Then she thought about how much the deep-red plants would brighten the entry of her turn-of-the-century home.  And of course, she could not give away her Mom and Dad’s roses.

Bonnie said the justifications kept coming: the flowers are beginning to wilt; this friend would be offended; I really could use this when I get home. She said she could not part with anything.  So, she climbed back into bed. She calmed her guilt with a decision to call the hospital gift shop when it opened in the morning. She would order Ginger some flowers of her own.

When Ginger returned from surgery, a candy-striper brought her a small green Christmas wreath with a red bow.  She hung it on the bare white wall above Ginger’s bed. That evening, Bonnie had more visitors. Even though Ginger was recuperating from surgery, she greeted each visitor and proudly showed them her Christmas wreath.

Home In Time for Christmas

The next morning, after breakfast, the nurse returned to tell Ginger that she was going home.  “The van is on its way to pick you up.” Bonnie felt happy for Ginger. She would be home in time for her Christmas party, but Bonnie felt guilty when she remembered that the hospital gift shop would not open for two more hours.  She looked around the room at her flowers one more time.

The nurse brought the wheelchair to Ginger’s bedside.  Ginger gathered up what few things she had and pulled her coat from the hanger in the closet. Bonnie said, “I’ve really enjoyed getting to know you, Ginger.”  She said her words were sincere but she was feeling bad for not following through on her good intentions.

The Gift of Gratitude

The nurse helped Ginger with her coat and into the wheelchair.  Then she removed the small wreath from the nail on the wall and handed it to Ginger.  They turned toward the door to leave when Ginger said, “Wait.” Ginger stood up from her wheelchair and hobbled slowly over to Bonnie’s bed.  She reached out her hand and gently laid the small wreath in Bonnie’s lap. “Merry Christmas. You are a nice lady.” Then Ginger hugged Bonnie.

Bonnie whispered, “Thank you.”  She said she could not say anything more as she watched Ginger hobble back to the chair and out the door. She looked at the small wreath in her hands and thought, “Ginger’s only gift.  And she gave it to me.” As she looked toward Ginger’s bed, she saw, again, her side of the room was bare and empty. But as she heard the elevator doors closing, Bonnie said, “I experienced gratitude as I had never experienced it before.  I don’t think I will ever be the same.” 

Your Next Step

Now, let’s go back to the person I asked you to remember. 

  1. Get that person’s face in your mind and name on your lips
  2. Give God thanks. You are who you are today because of that person’s presence and influence. 
  3. How will you express your gratitude? make a phone call? send a text? bake cookies?  What one thing will you do to express your gratitude?
  4. Now, do it!    

By God’s grace, you express your gratitude by loving as you have been loved.  When gratitude overtakes you, you forget to be afraid. You become able to trust and you have time for the greater things in life. Once you experience and express your gratitude, you will never be the same.

 

 

There is in most of us a deep uncertainty and tension about change.  On one hand, you want to grow, develop, and expand. Even when it brings anxiety, you may like some level of adventure.  Growing is a part of who you are. The idea of becoming more than you are is exciting.

On the other hand, you recoil at the change.  There is fearful anxiety of the unknown.  What will the “not-yet-experienced” be like? Then, when someone or something even suggests that you change, you defend yourself, dig in, and protect who you are.

Then there is the tendency to do nothing.  You just don’t want to make the effort to adjust to what change means or calls forth?

These are some of the inner challenges you face as you change and grow. That is why I ask the question: Do you want to grow? As a Jesus follower, do you want to become who God has created you to be?

Are you willing?

If you have been baptized, I assume that you have said, at least symbolically, “I want to grow” or “I am ready to grow.” Because with baptism, you respond to God’s invitation to grow into who God has created you to be. So, you have a desire to grow.  That is what you bring to growth, your desire, your willingness, your response to God’s invitation.

You know, that really is all you bring to the process of growth: your willingness or unwillingness.  You are created so that you can choose to either grow toward God’s dream for you or to set yourself against the tide and refuse it.  If you want to grow, there is no end to what you can become. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “But this is precisely what is written: God has prepared things for those who love him that no eye has seen, or ear has heard, or that haven’t crossed the mind of any human being.” (I Corinthians 2:9) But if that desire does not exist, because it has been choked out by fear or pride or shame or resistance, not even the God who made heaven and earth is willing to force it upon you.

Questions from Jesus

Do you remember the story of Jesus walking beside the pool of Bethesda?  There were sick people gathered by the pool.  The tradition was that when the waters stirred an angel was nearby and the first person to get into the pool would be healed of his/her affliction.  People came from all around with the hope of being healed.  As Jesus moved through the gathering of sick people, his attention was drawn to one man who had been lying there for thirty-eight years.  Jesus went over to him asked, “Do you want to be healed?”

On the surface that sounds like a ridiculous question.  That man had been waiting for thirty-eight years. Of course, he wants to be healed. Yet Jesus was aware that change is never simple. Have you read the story?  The man’s response reveals his uncertainty and tension regarding change.  He begins to make excuses and shifts the blame to other people.  He says, “The problem is, I have no one to help me into the pool. When the water bubbles, someone else always gets in ahead of me.”

Jesus’ Persistence

Notice that Jesus does not let him sidestep the issue.   Jesus asks him again, “Do you want to be healed?”  I can imagine the conversation going like this, “Man, the real issue is your willingness to be healed. Have you become so accustomed to this life of lying here and blaming others that you really don’t want to change? After all, there are benefits to being sick. No one expects anything of you.  You don’t have to work.  You don’t have to face the pressures of being active. You don’t have to do anything any different than what you have been doing.

Truthfully, would you really accept the help if it were offered?  You would have to become vulnerable enough to acknowledge you need help and then accept it. You must swallow pride and shame and a sense of self-sufficiency.  So, I am asking you the real question. Here and now, do you want to be healed?”

The Answer

For the first time in thirty-eight years, the real issue was spelled out for the man.  He could no longer evade it or blame it on someone else.  So, when confronted by Jesus, the man dared to say, “Yes, I want to change.”  Immediately the process of healing began.  A thirty-eight-year cycle was broken, and a new way of living began to take shape.  He began to take responsibility for carrying his own load rather than being carried.

Sure, there were pains in this new life. Significant change brings both gain and loss. But, look at the new possibilities available to the man. Once he made the decision to grow, to change, he had a whole new world before him.  It is the same for you when you are willing to become vulnerable by stepping out in courage to brave the new reality. The good news is, it is never too late to start growing again. You are never too old to start. If after thirty-eight years of immobility this man could begin to move again, why can’t you?

Your Turn

Do you want to grow? As a Jesus follower, are you willing to do what it takes to become who God has created you to be? If so, then here is what you need to do:

  1. Name four trusted friends with whom you are willing to become vulnerable.
  2. Through prayer and reflection, focus upon who God has created you to be. Test your desires with your friends.
  3. Trust your friends to name what must be addressed for you to step out in courage to brave your new reality?
  4. What one thing will you do, today, to step into that new reality?
  5. Now, with the love, care, and encouragement of your friends, step out in faith to live the life God created for you.

Do you want to grow? If you do, then the sky is the limit.

God is “able to do far beyond all that we could ask or imagine by his power at work within us…” Ephesians 3:20.

There is nothing more basic than the desire to grow. If the desire is present in your life, no number of obstacles can keep God from finishing that which God has begun.  If the desire is not present, then not even our great creator God can make God’s dream come true.

Do you want to grow?  Then, in the name of Jesus, get started!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You are a person of influence. You might not see yourself as influential, but there are individuals and groups of people you influence by your relationships, interactions, and decisions. Your influence gives you the opportunity to be a leader.

Brené Brown writes, “A leader is anyone who takes responsibility for finding the potential in people and processes, and who has the courage to develop that potential.” Whether you hold a position in a corporation, a company, a church or you are a parent, a teacher, a dance instructor, or a little league coach you influence people by finding and developing potential in their lives.

The question is, do you have the courage to be that kind of leader?

Ordinary Courage

The word “courage” comes from the Latin word for “heart”. It originally meant, “to speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.” Over time, the definition has changed. Today, courage is more synonymous with being heroic. We certainly need heroes. But courage has a deeper meaning.

I want to know if you have the heart to be vulnerable with the people you influence. Do you have the heart to be vulnerable? I like the way Brené Brown expresses it, “I think we’ve lost touch with the idea that speaking honestly and openly about who we are, about what we’re feeling, and about our experiences (good and bad) is the definition of courage. Heroics is often about putting our life on the line. Ordinary courage is about putting our vulnerability on the line.”¹

Putting Your Vulnerability on the Line as a Disciple

I experienced this kind of courage through my fourth grade Sunday school teacher. Although she worked as a clerk, collecting money for the water department, and never held a position of leadership in the church, I was within her sphere of influence. Mary would greet me every Sunday at the classroom door with the words, “Timmy, I knew you were going to be here this morning.” Then with a welcoming hug, she would send me into the classroom to meet other classmates who had gathered. As I entered the room I would hear her say, “Nancy, I knew you were going to be here this morning.” When I would look back she would be hugging Nancy and sending her into the room to meet the rest of us. Mary greeted us as if we were the most important people she knew.

She developed relationships with eight 10-year-olds who gathered every Sunday morning. Because she took responsibility to develop those relationships, we listened to her lessons on Jesus. I remember her telling us about Jesus touching a leper and about Jesus receiving a woman who was sick. I will always remember her saying that we love like Jesus because that is the way we thank Jesus for loving us. We were under her influence as she developed our potential to become followers of Jesus.

Several times a year, Mary would bring cookies or brownies or little square sandwiches, along with Kool-Aid to our Sunday School class. As we ate, she would tell us how Jesus invited people to eat at his table. Once when we did not have enough room around the table, she said, “There is always enough room at Jesus’ table.” She then asked us to help her add an extension to the table so everyone had a place. By her teaching and action, she influenced how we related to one another.

Teaching the Great Commission

I remember the Sunday she taught us about Jesus sending his disciples into the world to tell others about God’s love. As was her custom, Mary pointed her finger at one of us and said, “You read the first verse.” We continued around the table, each of us reading a verse. When we ran out of verses, she said, “Okay, let’s start over.” Again, she pointed her finger and said, “Now, you read the first verse” and we continued until everyone had an opportunity to read.

On that Sunday, our scripture was Matthew 28:16-20. Each of us took a turn reading a verse:

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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 that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

I don’t think I will ever forget what happened next. When we finished reading, she looked at each of us and said, “One day, one of you will go someplace in the world and tell people about Jesus.”

Mary was taking responsibility for the people with whom she had influence. She was developing the potential of a group of 10-year-olds to follow Jesus into the world. She put her vulnerability on the line to lead fourth graders.

When we “graduated” from fourth grade, Mary continued to send us notes of encouragement. I still have the gift she gave me for my high school graduation. It was a book on character. She led with courage. She encouraged my development as a person and as a Jesus follower.

Living the Great Commission

When I was 32, I was invited by the Institute for World Evangelism to participate in a school of evangelism in West Africa. I was partnered with a Nigerian pastor and assigned to a Methodist church in a fishing village just outside of Accra, Ghana. Titilayo, my Nigerian partner, and I joined the pastor of the church in visiting the people of his parish, teaching bible studies, leading prayer meetings, and preaching on Sunday mornings.

One afternoon the pastor took us to visit the matriarch of the church. She lived in a small four-room house with her sisters, their children, and their children’s children. There was a total of 40 people in the house. As we entered the compound behind the house, there were children playing, chickens and goats running, and several women cooking dinner on an open fire.

The pastor greeted everyone in his language “Ga.” With his greeting, we were welcomed with smiles, waves, and extended hands. As he introduced us to the group, several of the younger women went into the house and led an older woman, the matriarch, out of the house and into the compound. One of the women placed a small white bench on the ground. The older woman sat on the bench. Everyone in the compound gathered around to listen.

The pastor introduced us, Titilayo Fatimyembo from Nigeria and Timothy Bias from the United States of America. He told the group that we had come to tell them of God’s love in Jesus. As he introduced us, the older woman reached out her hands to welcome us. Titilayo and I instinctively took her hands. With everyone standing around us, she began to sing in her language a tune that I recognized.

In Christ there is no east or west
In Him no south or north
But one great fellowship of love
Throughout the whole wide earth.

Leaders Develop the Potential of Others

Do you know who I thought of at that moment? My fourth grade Sunday school teacher. I remember the day Mary said, “One day, one of you will go someplace in the world and tell people about Jesus.” Mary had taken the responsibility of finding the potential in a group of 10-year-olds and had the courage to develop our potential.

Your Next Step

You decide: are you a person of influence? You are if you’re leading the people around you to live into the potential of their lives.

Take the next step by doing one or more of the following:

  • Focus on your purpose. As a person of influence, you have the opportunity to lead people into becoming who God has created them to be. Knowing your purpose is fundamental in helping others find their purpose.
  • Look for God’s presence in the lives of the people around you. As a leader, being able to identify God in the people you influence allows you the opportunity to connect them with God.
  • Cultivate relationships with the people you influence and lead. It is the depth of your relationships that allow you the opportunity to be vulnerable and courageous.
  • Listen to “Do You Want To Lead With Courage?
  • Download the Transformation Guide to take this next step. The Transformation Guide offers you four skills that will assist you in identifying what is needed and what is missing in Leading with Courage.

As a Jesus follower, you have the opportunity to develop the foundation of God’s presence and purpose in your life. As a person of influence, you have the responsibility of finding and developing the potential in the lives of the people you influence. Because of who you are and how you lead, one day someone will contact you and say, “Thank you for having the courage to lead me in becoming who God created me to be.”

Today is the day you can begin to change your corner of the world. Let’s lead with ordinary courage.

 

Notes

Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection, as found on http://www.bhevolution.org/public/gifts_of_imperfection.page