lead strong(er)

Here is an over-simplified explanation of leadership:

1. Determine a goal or destination.

2. Gather others to go with you.

3. Get there.

(The order of #s 1 and 2 may be interchangeable.)

In this age of independent thinking, anti-organizational mentality and mistrust of leadership, these steps are harder to accomplish than they used to be. Leading is a tough business.

So what’s a leader to do when faced with the very real challenges that become tumultuous daily occurrences?

Lead Strong(er)!

Leading stronger is not becoming a bully. It is not talking louder or pushing harder or threatening followers.

Leading stronger is a very delicate balance of finesse and courage. It is a blending of vision and servitude. Strong leadership is part chemistry and part artistry. Specifics depend on the culture of the organization and the prognosis of the issue being faced.

Leading stronger is assessing the validity of the vision. It is vowing to serve those whom you have been appointed to lead. It is committing on a deeper level to those who are being served. Leading stronger means more dedication to the task assigned by God.

Being a strong(er) leader means having the courage to identify the need, it means being decisive regarding direction, being visionary regarding solutions and being resolved regarding overcoming opposition.

The truth is, there are not enough people going the right direction. There is too much evil in the world. The battle between hope and despair is still being decided. Someone needs to rise up. Strong leaders are needed, now more than ever!

When strong leadership is called for, and everyone agrees there is a dire need for it, leaders have to step up and examine the tough question:

Am I strong enough to take us where we need to go?

If not, you have two options: toughen up or quit.

Please don’t quit.

The day demands robust leaders. The spoils will go to the ones who endure. Lead strong, my friends!

simply thankful

Letha and I spent the holiday with our daughter and her family in Guatemala. Jessica and Josh are doing a phenomenal job as Directors of Casa Shalom Orphanage.  And of course, the highlight of our visit was time spent with our baby granddaughter, Sophia. We loved being with her for her first ever Thanksgiving. She is a great blessing in our lives.

Tomorrow we head back home, back to our busy life in the U.S. We return with our hearts full of gratitude. In our brief visit, we witnessed again the power of this ministry to needy children. We saw God answer prayer. A little 2 year old girl seriously smashed her thumb in a door and doctors were certain she would lose the thumb. I saw her just after the accident and the thumb was barely attached by the skin. Yesterday, 2 days later, she was released from the hospital and it looks as though her thumb will be fine. Amazing!  We witnessed one boy’s life be changed as he was brought to the orphanage after being on the streets shining shoes to make a living. He’s ten years old. Again, amazing!

We have much to be thankful for this season. God has been faithful and good. He always is – it’s just that sometimes we’ re so busy consuming His goodness that we fail to recognize it. I loved the last few days: no TV, no Black Friday shopping, lots of time with family and with God. I am thankful.

Many blessings to you this Thanksgiving week. I am thankful for you!


God: Comforter

These are the extended notes from today’s message at Cross Community Church. As you might imagine, I did not have time to develop all the scriptures. So these are the major points.  If you like, you can also listen to the message or those from the rest of the series online at this link.

John 14: 16-18 And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Comforter (Counselor, Helper, Intercessor, Advocate, Strengthener, and Standby), that He may remain with you forever– 17The Spirit of Truth, Whom the world cannot receive (welcome, take to its heart), because it does not see Him or know and recognize Him. But you know and recognize Him, for He lives with you [constantly] and will be in you. 18I will not leave you as orphans [comfortless, desolate, bereaved, forlorn, helpless]; I will come [back] to you. (AMP)

Comforter: paracletos: The compound noun refers to “one called alongside.”


When and why do you need The Comforter?

Broken hearted: Psalms 69:19-20 You know how I am scorned, disgraced and shamed; all my enemies are before you. 20 Scorn has broken my heart and has left me helpless; I looked for sympathy, but there was none, for comforters, but I found none. (NIV)

Oppressed: Ecclesiastes 4:1 Again I looked and saw all the oppression that was taking place under the sun: I saw the tears of the oppressed— and they have no comforter; power was on the side of their oppressors— and they have no comforter. (NIV)

Sorrowful: Jeremiah 8:18 You who are my Comforter in sorrow, my heart is faint within me.  (NIV)

In Danger: David (to Saul when he was trying to kill him) I Samuel 24:15  May the Lord therefore judge which of us is right and punish the guilty one. He is my advocate, and he will rescue me from your power!” (NLT)

When Destroyed: Job 16:19 Even now my witness is in heaven. My advocate is there on high.  (NLT)

Jesus sends the Comforter:

Mark 1:8  (John said) “I baptize you withwater, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit!” (NLT)

John 14:16 Then I will ask the Father to send you the Holy Spirit who will help you and always be with you. (CEV)

John 14:17 He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. (NLT)

John 14:26 But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you. (NLT)

John 15:26 I will send you the Spirit who comes from the Father and shows what is true. The Spirit will help you and will tell you about me. (CEV)

What the Comforter provides:

Defense when persecuted:  Matthew 10:19-20 When you are arrested, don’t worry about how to respond or what to say. God will give you the right words at the right time. 20 For it is not you who will be speaking—it will be the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. (NLT)

Spiritual life: John3:8a Only God’s Spirit gives new life. (CEV)

John 6:63 The Spirit is the one who gives life! Human strength can do nothing. The words that I have spoken to you are from that life-giving Spirit. (CEV)

Conviction: John 16:8-9 The Spirit will come and show the people of this world the truth about sin and God’s justice and the judgment. 9The Spirit will show them that they are wrong about sin, because they didn’t have faith in me. (CEV)

Love: Romans 5:5b For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. (NLT)

Freedom from power of sin: Romans 8:2 And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. (NLT)

Resurrection after you die: Romans 8:11 The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you. (NLT)

Power to overcome temptations: Romans 8:13b But you will live, if by the help of God’s Spirit you say “No” to your desires. (NLT)

Spiritual confidence: Romans 8:16 God’s Spirit makes us sure that we are his children. (CEV)

Spiritual strength in prayer: Romans 8:26 In certain ways we are weak, but the Spirit is here to help us. For example, when we don’t know what to pray for, the Spirit prays for us in ways that cannot be put into words. (CEV)

We are made right with God: I Corinthians 6:11 But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (NLT)

Spiritual gifts to build up the church: I Corinthians 12;1 Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. (NIV)

I Corinthians 12:7 The Spirit has given each of us a special way of serving others. (CEV)

Made more like Jesus: II Corinthians 3:18 And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image. (NLT)

Unity: II Corinthians 13:13b May God bless you with his love, and may the Holy Spirit join all your hearts together. (CEV)

Fruit or evidences of the Spirit: Galatians 5:22-23a God’s Spirit makes us loving, happy, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, 23gentle, and self-controlled. (CEV)

Wisdom: Ephesians 1:17 The Spirit will make you wise and let you understand what it means to know God. (CEV)

Renewed thinking: Ephesians 4:23 let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. (NLT)

Spiritual courage: II Timothy 1:7 God’s Spirit doesn’t make cowards out of us. The Spirit gives us power, love, and self-control. (CEV)

New birth, new life: Titus 3:5 He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. (NLT)

Defeating the devil: I John 4:4 Children, you belong to God, and you have defeated these enemies. God’s Spirit is in you and is more powerful than the one that is in the world. (CEV)

Everything we need is provided by God: Comforter – the Holy Spirit!

for victims of sexual abuse (as children)

The news is prompting this post.

Children who are abused sexually pay a heavy price throughout their entire lives.  The pain of sexual abuse is a complex situation and as diverse as the shameful experiences the victims endured. There are no easy answers and no one can assume to know what these people are going through.

If you were abused as a child, I have some observations to share with you. I hope they may help you with recovery and healing.

Many times, the victim suffers while the guilty party lives guilt-free. Those who were taken advantage of when they are children replay the memories in their heads. They know that what happened was not right. They have a conscience and it cannot be seared. The abusers, on the other hand, many times learn how to forget the past. They ignore their guilt until it disappears. They go about carefree in life. At least that is what it appears like to the victims because almost never does the abuser confess unless he/she is confronted by the abused.

Until the victim tells what happened, they continue to live under the cloud of the abuse. The burden of telling should never be on the victim but I suppose we can’t expect a child molester to do the right thing, correct? So by not telling, they continue to abuse, even if the physical abuse has stopped. I fully believe that, if the victim is the one to expose the abuse, the punishment for the abuser should be more severe.

So why don’t adults who were victims of sexual abuse as children tell what happened to them? Many times they don’t tell because they don’t want to hurt innocent people. Other family members, spouses, children… all of these people did nothing wrong and to learn of such a tragedy is very painful and embarrassing for a family. So in the best interest of innocent people, victims remain silent.

There is also the fear of being disbelieved.  It is easy for an abuser to lie. What they did when they abused a child is as dishonest as it comes. So it is probably safe to assume that they will deny accusations. But their admission of guilt is not the point. The point is to free the victims of  the shame and disgrace they are enduring. By turning the light on the abuse, truth will eventually be known.

Let me say this to you if you were a victim of sexual abuse as a child: You will never be completely free until you confront your abuser. If that is not possible, it is very important for you to share with someone you love what happened to you. You don’t have to live in the prison of shame. You did nothing wrong. You are a victim. Why not begin the healing process?

I’m praying for you. Let God heal you.

the battle for Sunday

The average church attender may think that their Pastor wants them to come to worship services on Sunday just to boost the numbers. That’s simply not true. He wants you to attend because what is happening there is vitally important and you are a vitally important part of the church.

Here is what happens in the minds of many church members on a Sunday morning:

“I’m tired, it’s been a long week, I stayed up late. I just don’t feel like going today.”

“One of the kids isn’t feeling too well, I think it is better if we just stay at home.”

“We have company from out of town at our house. It would be rude to go to church without them and I don’t want to ask them to come with us.”

“We can watch a church service on television or online.”

“Golf, tennis, fishing, Disney…any excuse will do!”

“I work 5 days a week, on Saturday I work around the house. Sunday is my only day off, I want to relax and enjoy some ‘me’ time.”

“We shouldn’t be legalistic; God doesn’t require me to go to church every Sunday.”

“I can worship God wherever I am. I don’t have to go to church to be with God.”

“The beach is awesome today, the weather is fantastic, let’s go there.”

“I’ve not been living right. I feel too guilty to go to church.”

“I paid a lot of money for that boat, it is wrong not to use it. Sunday is the best day to do that.”

“We’re going to visit family on Sunday.” (I wonder why people don’t visit so much on Saturday!)

“I have some work to catch up on, this is the only time to get it done.”

“Church is boring and predictable anyway, I won’t miss a thing.”

And so on…

In short, there is a war happening in the hearts and souls of people.

I encourage you – push through all of these struggles and just go to church!

If you don’t attend a service, there is more happening than you may realize:

  • You can’t positively impact others at church. Plainly put, you are supposed to build up others . You are a blessing to others simply by walking in the door. You are responsible to use your gifts to help others. You can’t do that if you’re not at church.
  • The quality of the worship service is negatively impacted if you are not there. While theoretically it should not be so, a “critical mass” is needed in most gatherings in order to conduct a successful service. When the crowd is down, morale usually follows.
  • You can’t participate in the moment of what God is saying to and doing in the lives of the people who are there. Listening online or hearing someone else talk about it is great – but it cannot recapture the power of the divine moment with God.
  • Others are watching you. You may influence them to also miss worship services.
  • As a part of the church, you are responsible to fulfill the direction that God gives to the church – whether or not you are there. Absenteeism doesn’t work for an excuse with God.
  • You disconnect from the life of the church. If the pastor is preaching in a series of messages, you miss vital parts. It then becomes more difficult to return the following week, since you already don’t know what’s going on. The church changes every week and we need to change with it.
  • A habit is formed. It only takes a few weeks to get out of the habit of going to church. You then feel guilty if/when you return. It’s just easier to avoid all the drama.
  • If you are gone more than a few weeks, you will feel out of place with your church family.
  • You won’t receive the blessing that God provides at that particular service.

Your pastor wants you at church services because he cares about your soul. And it is better for your soul if you go to church. When you are not there, he or she notices – and it is discouraging to them. Trust me on this one.


Hebrews 10:25 (NCV) “You should not stay away from the church meetings, as some are doing, but you should meet together and encourage each other. Do this even more as you see the day coming.”

Plain and simple: the devil doesn’t want you at church services. Don’t allow him to win that battle!

See you on Sunday!

they could make a fortune off of me!

Don’t tell the good people at Skype or at Facebook who provide Video Chat. I would pay them lots of money if they threatened to take away their free services.

Since our granddaughter Sophia went to live in Guatemala, we talk nearly everyday with her, via these free video services. Actually her mother calls us but we mostly talk to the baby. She loves it – but not as much as her Nana and I do. And it really works in the effort to keep her familiar with us. Last time we saw her in person, she acted as though we had been with her the entire time. Now when we talk, she laughs and touches the screen like she’s trying to touch our faces. Melts our hearts.

I guess I could look at it another way. The Skype people could be like drug dealers: they give you free stuff long enough to get you hooked and then they really make you pay. Don’t tell them but if they start charging, I’ll pay – whatever the cost.

preaching is two-way communication

While some may disagree, I have always considered good preaching to be more like a conversation than a lecture. Both the speaker and the listeners must be active and engaged in order for there to be successful ministry. Through the years, I have not been the most engaging speaker on the planet but I have had times when I connected well while speaking to a gathering of worshippers.

Here are some things that I consider positive signs of a group that is engaged in the message:

Eye contact: while a speaker must look around the room at various people, those who are listening to a speaker should stay visually focused on her. Wandering eyes, translates as disengaged.

Body language: Good posture, squared shoulders and a pleasant facial expression goes a long way. Speakers who see listeners yawn, have their heads in their hands or otherwise looked bored get the message – you are bored.  Even crossed arms with a furrowed brow can send a message to a preacher that you are less-than thrilled with what is being said.  Watch your body language. If you think that this is unimportant to your pastor, you are wrong. He is watching closely the signals you are sending.  If you want to make his day, sit on the edge of your seat and take notes.

An amen now and then won’t kill you: While I never like hype for hype’s sake, an occasional “I agree” goes a long was while presenting God’s Word. This is especially true when dealing with sensitive topics. It is true that most people are uncomfortable with silence. We need to learn how to do quiet well.  But there are times when a well-timed, “yes” will break the tension in the room and allow a preacher to proceed with the issue at hand. To me, this is the equivalent of providing positive verbal feedback during any conversation. How tough would it be to talk to a friend and never get any feedback? That’s what preaching feels like when crickets are the only ones making noise.

Laugh at jokes, nod in agreement, answer questions, respond and react: Generally, this has to do with being a good conversationalist. I doubt any of us would walk out mid-sentence, doze off or refuse to engage with a friend who is conversing with us.  We should give our preachers the same courtesy.

The next time you are hearing a preacher, consider it a one-on-one conversation. While you can’t talk as much as he does, you still have a very important role to play in the talk.

And ask yourself this question: “what if everybody did what I am doing?”  What kind of a church service would that be?

Help a preacher out!