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

We all want healthy, life-giving, encouraging, relationships in our lives.  Relationships of mutual respect, grounded in compassion and care.  Relationships built on love and integrity which give us the strength to live our lives to the fullest.

Courageous relationships give us support to be the leaders needed at work, at home, in the community, and even in our churches. Yet, too often we find ourselves in relationships carved out of fear where we are tentative in our commitments and based upon co-dependency where we seek to survive.

Read more

Have you taken the time today to reflect upon God’s presence? Where have you seen God or experienced God this past week? What are you doing to intentionally cultivate your awareness of God’s presence in your life or in the people around you?

I know these are not easy questions to answer. And when you do seek to answer them, you end up less than satisfied with your responses. You are either embarrassed that you have not taken time to focus upon God’s presence or you are unsure whether you can truly identify God’s presence.

Besides, what difference does it make?

I understand. I confess that I’m still learning to become more aware of God’s presence in my life. So, let me tell you what I am learning. Read more

Have you ever taken a journey in your mind?  When you read something or hear a word, a phrase, or you think of someone or an event and it reminds you of something which is related to something else.

You begin to think of people or events related to whatever triggered the thought and before you realize it you are off on a different subject. I admit I do it all the time.

For example, yesterday, while making a mental list of things I had to accomplish for the day, I saw a police car.  The car reminded me of an obituary I saw last week. The obituary was of state policeman I once knew in West Virginia.  He was injured in a training exercise and had to retire early.  So, I wondered why he died so young? Now, what did that have to do with my list of things to accomplish?

As I said, I do it all the time.

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How have you experienced God’s call in your life?

Although the words, God’s call, can be associated with the vocation of ministry, to answer God’s call is to decide how you are going to live your life in service to God.

There is nothing necessarily mystical about God’s call. Isaiah saw a vision and Samuel heard a voice. Paul was confronted with a presence and Simon Peter answered an invitation. Such encounters with God have marked the call of many people, but they are not the only ways you experience God’s call.

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When Tim and I set up TransformingMission.org in 2015, we did so to share resources about disciple-making. From 2015 until now, we’ve experimented, pivoted, and developed resources to serve Christian leaders in changing times.

Why?

Because as Bob Dylan said all the way back in 1964, Times They Are A Changin’

We recognize the challenges Christian leaders face. We see the challenges within our own denomination. And most importantly, we want to serve you.

We are committed to developing and equipping Christ-centered leaders for changing times.

And by leader, we borrow Brené Brown’s definition. A leader is:

Anyone who takes responsibility for finding the potential in people and processes, and who has the courage to develop that potential.

If that’s you, we need your help.

Will you please take a few minutes and complete this simple feedback form?

Looking Back to Look Ahead

  • This is our 264th post.
  • We released Episode 087 of LeaderCast on October 1, 2019
  • I’ve lost track of the number of Bible Studies and reading plans we’ve produced. But, we’re working on two right now. One is on courage and another is on call.

Neither one of us ever envisioned a weekly podcast as a part of what we’d share with you. Nor did we envision regular Bible Studies. That may sound silly given our focus on disciple-making. But, really, we thought there we enough Bible Study resources available.

But, you guessed it…Times they are a changin’.

And we’ve recognized while the number of resources could never be larger (hello, Google), there are few places that help people follow Jesus every day.

You see, the broad concept of disciple-making is central to our lives and leadership. And, as we regularly take time to pause, reflect, and pivot so we can continue to serve you with excellence we recognize the critical pause has helped us:

  • Launch a podcast
  • Identify topics for Bible Reading plans
  • Curate blog posts that encourage and equip you as leaders

Our focus remains on Jesus, and…

Yes, we’ll refer to Bob Dylan once more: Times They Are a Changin’.

So when we recently took a critical pause to reflect on what we’re offering you here, we realized we never asked YOU what would be helpful.

You’ll have to trust us that we listen closely to the conversations we have with leaders like you and to the emerging needs in local congregations. But, we’d really like to hear from YOU.

If you’d like to help us serve you, please complete this simple feedback form before October 9 at noon.

Integration

If we’re going to live into our commitment to develop and equip Christ-centered leaders for changing times, we know that means helping you live an integrated life.

But, for many, following Jesus is simply showing up to a religious service on Sunday morning.

That means we have a long road ahead.

If following Jesus means your thinking, feeling, and actions are an embodiment of Jesus every day, we also know there is work to do. And we want to help you grow and develop as Christ-centered leaders. At the center of leadership is living on the outside what you know on the inside. We believe that is true for you and for every Jesus follower who seeks to lead.

Will you please take a few minutes and complete this simple feedback form?

Thanks, in advance, for your time. We know it’s one of the most valuable resources you have. Thanks for sharing your feedback with us.

In Christ,

Sara Thomas and Tim Bias

PS – We’ll keep the feedback link active until Wednesday, October 9 at noon.

Well, I have done it again. I was reflecting on the gospel lection for Sunday and I jumped ahead in the chapter. The gospel for Sunday was Luke 15:1-10. The shepherd finds the lost sheep, and comes home shouting, “Rejoice with me, my lost sheep has been found.” The woman cries to her neighbors, “Come rejoice with me, the lost coin has been found.” These are great stories.

There is enough of God’s grace for me, you, and everyone we know. Besides, the remainder of the chapter, verses 11-32, the story of the Prodigal Son, was dealt with in Lent.

But, no. I jumped to the story that was not the focus of the week. And I know why. Read more