Comments from Colossians (1:28-29)

So we tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom God has given us. We want to present them to God, perfect in their relationship to Christ. That’s why I work and struggle so hard, depending on Christ’s mighty power that works within me. (Colossians 1:28-29; New Living Translation)

Some folk say, “I pray like everything depends on God and work like everything depends on me.” It makes me smile but it also reflects a biblical tension.

TensionOn the one hand, many Christians do little to “work out their salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). They live so passively or apathetically that faith seems of little or no consequence. If anything is going to happen, God will have to find a supernatural way to pull it off on His own. No help from these people. Their faith is personal and private. They have families, careers, and hobbies to attend to. They might slip into a Christmas or Easter service but not much beyond that.

On the other hand, other believers just work their hearts out. They volunteer for everything in the church and attend every major event. They always raise their hands when things need to be done. They work tirelessly, it seems; Christian Energizer bunnies who “work hard in the Lord” (Romans 16:12).

But there IS a tension, and should be.

The Apostle Paul tells the Christians in Colosse, “That’s why I work and struggle so hard, depending on Christ’s mighty power that works within me.” Hang on a minute! Paul is working and struggling hard, but at the same time he depends on Christ’s mighty power that works within him? Whose strength is Paul really using or relying on?


The journey of faith is neither apathetic passivity not frenetic activity. It’s partnership. Anything less than our best effort is unworthy of our calling. But self-reliance dishonors the Presence and power of Christ..

Some days I put my shoulder to the wheel FOR Him, and while the results may impress others, the effort usually drains me or draws attention to me. However, when I put my shoulder to the wheel WITH Him, I discover that indeed “His yoke is easy and His burden is light” (Matthew 11:30).

When the journey of faith feels exhausting or futile, when we feel disillusioned or depleted it may be that we’re struggling hard in our own power. Similarly, when we assume that everything depends on Christ, with little discipline or devotion on our part, we may feel distant, disconnected, and dissatisfied.

Can we struggle hard for the Cause of Christ while also depending on (and appropriating) His mighty power? We must. But His power flows from His Presence. Only as we abide in Him will we bear much fruit.

May God grip us, guide us, and go before us today as we surrender “all our heart, all our soul, all our mind, and all our strength” (Mark 12:30) to Him.

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Shape Your World

Dear friends,

I’ve been a little  quiet on the blog posts in recent times because I’ve been working on completing my latest book, which I’m pleased to say has been released on Amazon today.

Shape Your WorldLeadership happens anytime one person influences another. That could be parents with their children, pastors with their churches, teachers with their classes, colleagues in the workplace, and a gazillion other settings (long-term, short-term, large settings, small settings). Leadership happens everywhere, every day. We all do it. But we also know that not all leadership is effective. Indeed, some leadership can be self-serving and even damaging.

Shape Your World: Transformational Leadership for Everyday Life is the distillation of my leadership reading and research over the last two years. It explores the power and impact of authenticity, inspiration, empathy, and innovation as the chief building blocks of leadership that produces meaningful change while building lives. I’ve become convinced that this model of leadership — first proposed in the business world in the late 1970s — reflects the heart and core of Jesus’ own life and ministry more fully than any other model.

I invite you to this journey with me.

Copies of the book are now available on Amazon by clicking here. If you are interested in getting multiple copies of the book (10+) at a discounted rate, feel free to contact me at

By the way, all proceeds from the book will support the important and impressive work of Iberoamerican ministries — reaching and serving the people of Chile, South America, North Africa and the Middle East for Christ. You can find out more about them here.

My prayer for this 188-page book is that the Lord might use it to both equip and encourage you as a leader. Blessings as you continue to shape your own world more effectively for the glory of God!


Posted in Leadership, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 9 Comments

Gotta Die First

We LOVE stories of escape and survival (and the occasional Hallmark movie).

Think of Steve McQueen and James Garner in the 1963 classic The Great Escape. Those of us old enough to remember it have probably watched it more than once. More recently, millions of people watched Tom Hanks in Miracle on the Hudson; the inspiring story of Captain Sullenberger landing US Airways flight 1549 on the Hudson River in January 2009, without losing a single person. 155 people saved! We love it.

T'ChallaIf you’re into superheroes, you’ve probably enjoyed the genesis of Superman. Jor-el sends off his baby son Kal-el in a miniature space-ship before Krypton explodes. And the baby who escapes the planet becomes Superman.

Batman begins with a young Bruce Wayne surviving the brutal murder of his parents. He grows up to become the caped crusader in Gotham City.

The Black Panther, T’Challa, returns to his home country of Wakanda and ends up in deadly battle with an arch-enemy. We think T’Challa dies when he falls from a cliff into the swirling waters of the canyon below. But he survives and returns to save the day!

Our heroes always escape or survive! They muster up that last ounce of energy to win the day. They fight back and prevail. Story…after story…after story.

This weekend – tomorrow through Sunday – is Easter. We tell the central story of our faith again. Is the Christian story any different? Is it any different than every other hero story that we tell?

It is profoundly different, and here’s how. The core of the Gospel is not a rescue mission but a resurrection mission. The Gospel is not about a miraculous escape from death, but a glorious resurrection after it.

Unlike our superheroes, Jesus did not fight back. He does not resort to violence. He doesn’t summon a legion of angels to do battle. He dies. That’s something we can all do.

His enemies think they have taken his life; but He has given it. His enemies think they have won; but the story is not finished. His enemies think they have silenced him forever; but Sunday’s coming. And the apostle Paul says, this is everything.

In 1 Corinthians 15:14, Paul declares: “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain, and our faith is in vain.

Resurrection is everything. And it’s everything, because it’s not just the story of Jesus; it’s also our story. Much as I might like to be a superhero, with fantasies of power and strength, everyday I face death and failure of some kind. And the Gospel invites me not to escape or survive, but to die. And then the message of Easter bursts forth: Out of death comes life, when the hand of God is in it.

  • When a marriage is dead; life is possible when the hand of God is in it.
  • When addictions have killed our joy and our hope; life is possible when the hand of God is in it.
  • When grief and loss have stripped us of everything we love; life is possible when the hand of God is in it.

God does not rescue us; He resurrects us. This isn’t about discovering a secret tunnel at the last minute, or finding enough inner-strength to survive. This isn’t about being clever enough to land your stricken plane. The Easter message for each of us is that God takes death and by his power alone gives us life!

This Easter weekend, hold fast to faith, embrace hope, reject violence, and expect resurrection.

We don’t survive. We die! And then God takes the seed that dies, He plants it in the ground, and it bursts forth in new life; an entirely new creation. This is the glorious Gospel.

Posted in Easter, Faith, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 7 Comments

Distance & Desolation

Some days we feel the Presence of God as tangibly as a hand on our shoulder. Other days we’re traipsing alone through Death Valley under a scorching sun. Spiritual distance and desolation may come our way for a day, a week, or sometimes a season.

OasisChristians throughout the ages have grappled with this common reality. St John of the Cross wrote his famous Dark Night of the Soul in the 16th century to explore this feeling and experience. What are some of the possible factors? St. John concluded that “desolation” is a purging experience produced by God to make us hungry again for Him, to move us beyond spiritual immaturity and towards union with Him. Perhaps so, but consider the following, too.

Desolation can derive from rejection. Not the Father’s rejection of us, but our rejection of Him. Contrary to popular belief, God is not disgusted by us or quick to abandon us. He is not the angry God who punishes, but the loving God who grieves. But He also allows us to choose rebellion and sin. We reject Him…and it withers the soul.

Desolation can derive from false expectations. Many Christians have assumed that the journey of faith means a joyous road to bliss and well-being. We have no theology of suffering that allows for bankruptcy, illness, accident, unemployment, persecution, or failure. So when we face such things we may feel abandoned, even though Christ quietly enters our pain.

Desolation can derive from failed fellowship. God created us for fellowship with Him, with each other, and with all of creation. Any collapse in this fellowship moves us another step away from Him. When we fail to abide in Him, we build distance. When we harbor enmity, bitterness, or even indifference towards others, we build distance. Indeed, dare I suggest that when we are out of touch with creation itself, we can’t be in touch with the Creator himself. Violence and violation of the created order shatters intimacy with the Creator.

A parched soul produces a languishing life. None of us enjoy such blight. But in truth, we’re not alone. Be assured, the Father neither turns His head nor withdraws His grace.

If you are facing a day or a season of this kind, come again right now to the well. Jesus said to the woman, “Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” (John 4:14)


Posted in discipleship, Faith, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments


“Is a day without achievement a day well-lived?”

The question makes me uncomfortable. I don’t mind swapping the workplace for the home, but I’ve got lists of things to do in each place. And the more I’ve checked off my list, the better I feel. “It’s been a good day.”

UnhurriedEver feel that way? Busyness seems to give meaning and purpose to my life. Busyness makes me feel needed and valuable. Busyness — racing from meeting to meeting, or from person to person, or from task to task — says I am organized and significant. But this can be like cancer to the inner life.

Spiritual directors throughout the ages have declared that when we abide most deeply and richly in Christ, then our lives look and feel unhurried. Interestingly, nobody in the Gospels ever said of Jesus that he was hurried or busy. Perhaps he would have seen that as something less than a badge of honor, while we might consider it a great compliment. Instead, he stopped, listened, withdrew, paid attention, got engaged in the interruptions … and trusted the leading of his Father.

“Is a day without achievement a day well-lived?”

Perhaps we might also ask the corollary questions: “How do we learn to be with God, when we’re not great at being with anyone?” Or perhaps “Am I in the business of Jesus, or abiding in Jesus?”

Unhurried does not describe how I spend hours or minutes. It describes a state of heart. Unhurried comes not from forced breaks, but from chosen stillness. Unhurried is not what happens when I’m not busy, but a commitment to manage and view busyness differently.

If today took an unexpected turn, if your lists remained untouched, if you couldn’t be “productive,” would you be unhurried or stressed?

The unhurried living Christ invites us to abide in him, to walk with him, to embrace his leading and his way, to find rest and hope and purpose and significance in him. You may be facing a full day, but busyness is a state of the heart (as much as hurry is). Live into the fullness, but not into the busyness. As we become less hurried, our days will be better-lived…and more.

Posted in discipleship, Spiritual Formation | Tagged , , | 18 Comments

The Next 10 Minutes

Many of us live sufficiently far in the future that we lose sight of the present moment.

The “go-getters” make plans, set up calendars, have appointments, and organize their schedules. Always another meeting to attend, another place to get to, another activity to participate in. Hurry, hurry, hurry. Busy lives (exhausted lives), bouncing like pin-balls.

On the other hand, the “worry warts” tend to mull over what might happen tomorrow, or next week, or next month. Dark clouds and doom. What if? What about? What when? We might find ourselves rehearsing a conversation we need to have with a friend or family member tonight after work. Or perhaps we’re dreading the arrival of the credit card statement.

Ten MinutesI recently listened to Jan Johnson speak, and was struck by a simple question: What would it look like to love God for the next 10 minutes?

The next 10 minutes? We usually talk about following Christ for a lifetime…and lose sight of the next 10 minutes.

I imagine it might look rather different for each of us. You’re taking two or three minutes to read this blog post, but what about the seven minutes after that? How might we love God more in those few minutes?

What if we came back to that question several times a day? What if that question started to take over our days?

I’ve no doubt that if we took the question seriously, there would be times when we’d work harder, or speak more truthfully, or refrain from saying something hurtful or selfish. Other times we’d be more attentive to the people we’re with. Yet again, we might discover that we’d pick up His Word a little more. Or pray a little more frequently. Or give a little more generously. Or serve a little more willingly. Or complain a little less.

What would it look like to love God for the next 10 minutes?

The journey of faith is truly a journey of small steps not massive leaps. Perhaps we learn to trust Christ better in 10-minute increments, than in six-month programs. Ten minutes sitting in the doctor’s office waiting to be seen. Ten minutes with the kids in the car on the way home after school. Ten minutes on the phone with a friend. Ten minutes while showering and getting ready for the day. Ten minutes between meetings (or in meetings) at work.

No new activities; no new obligations; no extra time in our schedule; just a new way to think about some of 10-minute chunks of life His grace affords us.

What would it look like to love God for the next 10 minutes?

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Spontaneous Sin

Sin is rarely spontaneous. Vice usually has a history.

When we “fall” it’s usually because we’ve been dragging along the bottom for a while. Picture the iceberg. The 10% tip that floats above the waterline belies the 90% of ice that sits just beneath the surface.

IcebergHow often do we think of sin in terms of an action, thought, or word in the moment? Something spiteful slipped out of our mouths or something evil rose up within us. We regret it; perhaps even apologize for it. In our minds we just “repented” of it. But deep down we know this is likely to happen again, so our repentance feels shallow, hollow, or both.

If sin is rarely spontaneous, then what does this mean for repentance?

Sorrow for a moment of sin is a starting point. But it rarely absolves the heart, and almost never resolves the deeper issue.

Biblical repentance calls us to deeper self-awareness and deeper reflection. My words, thoughts, or actions today are likely the fruit of many days, months, or years. What you see or hear in me is most often the overflow of my life. If I live with brooding anger or constant hurt and feed my mind on violence, then I’m more likely to speak sharply and give a certain salute when other drivers offend me. Similarly, a life of peace, tranquility, and faith (irrespective of suffering) will produce fruit consistent with it.

An angry moment is really not “because I’m tired.” A bitter spirit is not because “someone mentioned that name again.” Malice comes from a history of woundedness. Sexual lust often has more to do with power and disconnection than a passing billboard.

The challenging work of spiritual formation involves the intentional work of self-examination. And true repentance may mean that we need to pause and ponder more deeply. A few tears, a fleeting moment of guilt, and a quick apology may place a band-aid over the wound for a moment. But these things are not the marks of true repentance. True repentance looks up longer, looks back farther, looks in deeper, and commits to the work of real formation.

As our Lenten fast continues, we have a glorious opportunity to be spiritually shaped. It’s life-changing. Our formation happens not by painting over old layers with platitudes and apologies but by stripping the old layers off and getting back to the bare wood before the Craftsman begins the restoration.

His grace sustains us in this gritty work, if we’re serious about becoming different men and women for the sake of our friends and families, and for the glory of God.

Sin is rarely spontaneous. What history has contributed to your vulnerability today?

Posted in Faith, grace, Lent, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Little Faith

The night had not gone well and sometime between 3am-6am, they found themselves out in the middle of the lake (Galilee) straining against a strong head wind. Dark. Windy. Water spraying up over the boat. And here came Jesus. Walking on water.

Walking on WaterYou may know the story. The disciples, exhausted from straining at the oars, are suddenly terrified by what they believe to be a ghost (Jesus). But not Peter. He apparently stands in the rocking boat and says, “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” said Jesus. And Peter commences to set the unbeaten world record for walking on water.

I don’t know if Peter took 3 steps or 30. But at some point he notices the driving wind and finally “was afraid” (Matthew 14:30). He cries out “Lord, save me” and Jesus immediately stretches out His hand and takes hold of Peter.

Then comes the punchline I may have misread for years. Jesus says to Peter, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?

I’ve always imagined a bit of a sigh in Jesus’ voice. The sigh of disappointment. That sigh that reminds Peter he’s failed again. The sigh of weariness or perhaps a hint of disdain.

Plenty of times in my life I’ve seen the wind, dropped my gaze from Jesus, and sunk a little. A time or two I’ve sunk a lot! And when I’ve cried out Hosannah (“Save me”) Jesus has immediately responded. But in my spirit I’ve hardly made eye-contact with Him. Ashamed, I can hear the sigh again (and again): “O you of little faith.” It’s a gentle chiding, a little salt in the wound, the vocalization of my failure. Not nice…but understandable. I’ll try harder next time. I’ll try to have bigger faith in the next storm.

But I may have misheard the text.

“Little faith” in the gospels is not a criticism but a commendation. Jesus told His disciples that if they had faith as small as a mustard seed (that’s very small) they could move mountains (Matthew 17:20) or uproot mulberry trees with a word (Luke 17:6). Little faith is not a bad thing; no faith is.

Indeed, Peter’s little faith saw him walk on water. The story is not so much about Peter’s failure — which is how we tend to read it — but of Christ’s grace, power, and responsiveness to faith of any size. Perhaps the tone of Jesus’ voice was not frustrated disappointment but gentle admiration.

Feel like all you have today is little faith? Don’t beat yourself up. It’s enough for you to walk on water. Just keep your eyes on Jesus, and not the waves. Watch what He can do.

Posted in Faith, Lent, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 12 Comments