Wednesday, September 9, 2009

2009 Natl Leadership Forum - FREE Webcast - Sept. 10-11

Register today and don’t miss this FREE webcast, featuring Christian servant leaders. Pre-register at or go to the link at

Lead Like Jesus would like to offer you an opportunity that we believe could have a tremendous impact on you, your church, organization and business.  September 10-11, Southeastern University, located in Lakeland, Florida, will be broadcasting its 2009 National Leadership Forum as an online webcast with all of the guest speakers from the 2009 Forum, including: Jack Welch, Dave Ramsey, TD Jakes, Patrick Lencioni, Megyn Kelly, Bill George, Bill Hybels, Henry Cloud, and many others.  Ken Blanchard, co-founder of Lead Like Jesus, is serving as the moderator of this special two-day webcast and I believe that the messages and material available through this webcast will be important for your life.  Click here to see a short preview of this incredible conference.

  Lead Like Jesus and Southeastern University are strategic alliances in spreading the Lead Like Jesus message.  Southeastern University is "dedicated to the proposition that servant leaders are world changers."  SEU is putting feet to this vision by integrating the Lead Like Jesus curriculum as part of the core requirements for all incoming freshmen beginning with Fall 2009 and also as a Masters level course.  It is this vision that has led to this webcast presentation of the 2009 Forum.  Southeastern University is making this servant leadership conference available at no cost to business leaders, non-profit organizations, and others who were unable to attend the 2009 Forum in person - perhaps due to the economic challenges that so many have faced this past year. 

  This is a one-time webcast event that will only be available on September 10-11, so it's important that you take advantage of this offer right away.  Although there is no cost to take part in this two-day event, participants must register by going to Once you have registered, additional details will be sent to you.  You may also find a link to Southeastern University by visiting  We hope you'll take advantage of this outstanding webcast event.   May God bless you as you continue to lead like Jesus!



The Lead Like Jesus Team

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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Getting Your Goat or Going Goat-less?

Reflections on Matthew 25:31-46

What’s your reaction to Jesus’ words in this passage? Not your response or reasoned thinking about what He says, but your initial reaction. Do His words at any level make you uncomfortable? And if so, what is it that makes you uncomfortable? I ask only because this passage can rattle people at different levels.

Perhaps it makes you uncomfortable because Jesus speaks about His return with certainty, as a fact, not a theory to be debated.

Perhaps it makes you uncomfortable because Jesus speaks of a judgment for all people.

Perhaps it makes you uncomfortable because you don’t know if you’d end up tagged as a sheep or a goat.

Perhaps it makes you uncomfortable because Jesus says this judgment is based on visible evidence that your beliefs change the way you see the world and how you treat others.

Perhaps you find yourself trying to catalog your good deeds.

Or perhaps you find yourself identifying with the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, or the imprisoned.

In this passage, Jesus calls His hearers back to the essence of true religion, just as He did when He said that the two greatest commandments are to love God and to love others (Matthew 22:34-40).

It seems that love for God inexorably leads to love for others (1 John 4:7-12, 20-21), a love that is demonstrated in action (1 John 3:16-18), a love that has compassion as a defining characteristic.

Compassion: deep awareness of the suffering of another coupled with the wish to relieve it.

"compassion." The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language,
Fourth Edition
. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004. 14 May. 2009.

God is by nature compassionate. When God told Moses His name, He identified Himself as

"The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God…Exodus 34:6

God’s compassionate nature was evident in Genesis 3 when He came looking for the couple who were now lost in sin, with the intent to rescue and restore them. This pattern continues throughout the Old Testament, revealing God’s compassion for men, women, and children. Over and over, His concern and love for the people He created turns into action on their behalf.

God’s compassion comes to fullest expression in the life of Jesus…

Who, being in very nature God,
      did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
 but made himself nothing,
      taking the very nature of a servant,
      being made in human likeness.
 And being found in appearance as a man,
      he humbled himself
      and became obedient to death—
         even death on a cross!
—Philippians 2:6-8

In 1 Corinthians 12, we discover that we as believers are now the physical representation of Christ in the world. Just as Jesus revealed God’s compassion in His life, God desires that, through our lives, we will reflect His compassion to a hurting world.

Who do you know who is…

In need of food or water, or a place to live?

In need of spiritual strength, hope or encouragement?

Lonely or alone?

In need of clothes?

Sick or suffering?

In prison or caught in a prison of their own making?

In need of someone to care?

In need of someone to believe in them until they can believe in themselves?

In need of a new start?

God’s plan from the beginning was that His people would become a blessing to others (Genesis 12:1-3).

What does God want you to do to help and bless others with the material and spiritual resources He has given you?

Paul echoes this same thought in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Praise God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! The Father is a merciful God, who always gives us comfort. He comforts us when we are in trouble, so that we can share that same comfort with others in trouble.

Many people struggle to believe that God cares for them due to the ever-present nature of their personal suffering. Those who escape the destructive cycle of their lives often speak of a friend who believed in them when they didn’t believe in themselves, of a friend who pointed them to God’s presence and compassion, of friends who cared enough to come alongside them in their need and care for them.

What hope and help do you have to offer others? What experience of His compassion and comfort can you offer to others who are hurting or in trouble?

As we are being transformed into the image of Christ, Bible study and prayer are not the end goal. Those, along with other spiritual habits, are means of shaping us in God’s image, of creating in us a compassionate heart that sees the world as God sees it and transforms us into people who see the needs of others around us, people who are moved to reach out to others and meet their needs in the name of Christ.

What is revealed about your heart by your reaction to seeing people in need?

What is God doing to carve out space for compassion for others in your heart?

Who do you know right now who needs God to meet their needs?

What do they know of God’s compassion because of your response to their situation?

What is God calling you to do to meet the needs of others?

To view the worship celebration related to this Next Step, visit

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Friday, May 8, 2009

Working with Oils

Based on Matthew 25:1-13

Oil in Scripture is often used to represent the Holy Spirit. Oil in biblical times, much like today, was an important component to life. Used in cooking and in providing light, oil was a precious commodity then, as it is now.

Scripture shows that the Holy Spirit is essential to the spiritual life. In Genesis 1:2, He is present at creation, hovering close, at work to bring life and shape to the earth

Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

God’s Spirit empowered Israel’s leaderselders, judges, priests, prophets, and kingsto rule lead well, and gifted ordinary people to serve the Lord (see Exodus 31:3, Numbers 11:17 and 27:18, Judges 3:10, 1 Samuel 10:10 and 16:13, etc.) Even Pharaoh recognized the Spirit of God at work in Joseph (Genesis 41:38). God’s Spirit spoke through the prophets, testifying to God’s work and of one who would come in the power of the Spirit (Isaiah 42:1, Matthew 12:18).

Turning to the New Testament, the first mention of the Holy Spirit is found in Matthew 1:18

This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit.

Unlike Genesis, where God is creating a new earth, this time the Spirit is at work creating the very life of God in Mary’s body.

His next appearance is in Matthew 3:15 at Jesus’ baptism, identifying Jesus publicly as the Son of God

As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. (See also John 1:33.)

Just as the Spirit of God was active in Jesus’ life, Scripture tells us that the Spirit is active in our lives, calling us, creating new life in Christ, teaching and guiding us along the way

Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.—John 3:5

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you foreverthe Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.—John 14:16,17

But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.—John 14:26

When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me….John 15:26

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.Acts 1:8

Warning: Scripture also cautions that it is possible to limit the Spirit’s work in our lives and to grieve Him through our choices (1 Thessalonians 5:19, Ephesians 4:30).

Just like you check the amount and condition of oil in your car, maybe it’s a good idea to check the condition of your relationship with the Spirit.

Has the life-giving oil of the Spirit of God been poured into your life?

Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, "Jesus be cursed," and no one can say, "Jesus is Lord," except by the Holy Spirit…. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.—1 Corinthians 12:3, 13

Is the Spirit seen in the ways you now live your life for the benefit of others?

Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.—1 Corinthians 12:7

Is your mind now set on what God desires? Are you led by Him? Does your life give evidence of Spirit-controlled attitudes and actions?

Read the following verses on or in your Bible to see what a life characterized by the Spirit looks like

·         Romans 8:5, 6

·         Romans 8:16

·         Romans 14:17

·         1 Corinthians 2:4, 13

·         2 Corinthians 3:17

·         Ephesians 4:3

·         Ephesians 6:18

·         Galatians 5:22,23

Are these familiar passages to you?

How frequently are these qualities evident in your life? What would your friends and family say?

What about your life recently has revealed the presence of the Spirit?

What can you do if you find that the oil is running low in your life and it needs replenished? How do you make sure that you aren’t guilty of the same misguided thinking of the Galatian believers that Paul wrote to, saying

Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?—Galatians 3:3

First, understand that the spiritual life takes focus on living in step with the Spirit of God

So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature… Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.—Galatians 5:16, 25

…the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.—Galatians 6:8

Then ask yourself a few questions

What are you doing to build up the life of God in your life? What spiritual habits are you practicing to keep your focus on nurturing and fanning into flame the life of the Spirit?

What role does Scripture reading, study, meditation and memorization play in transforming your life?

What is your prayer life like?

With whom are you developing an honest and intimate spiritual relationship that encourages one another to grow in faith?

How are you living life to benefit others?

Now respond to what God is saying to you about these things. What is the Spirit leading you to do to re-engage? What do you need to do to allow Him to replenish your supply of oil?

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.—Romans 15:13

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being…Ephesians 3:16

To view the worship celebration related to this Next Step, visit

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

I'm discovering anew the power of God's truth to reshape my perspective on life.

Memorizing Scripture is one of those spiritual disciplines that I had allowed to lapse in my life. Earlier this year, the Spirit used a friend and a Lead Like Jesus Leadership Encounter to nudge me to re-engage with scripture memorization and meditation.

But be sure to fear the Lord and serve Him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things He has done for you.—1 Samuel 12:24

1 Samuel 12:24 is the first verse I began to memorize. Samuel’s words to the people of Israel have a way of cutting through the clutter in my heart and mind. They remind me of what’s truly important in life and call me to remember how God has transformed my life since we began journeying together.

Next on my list was Romans 12:2—Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.

Familiar words, yet the power is not in their familiarity; rather, the power flows through the practice of focusing on God’s truth so that it reframes my perspective on the world around me. As I memorize the words of Scripture, God’s wisdom increasingly becomes the filter and grid through which I process the events and emotions of my life.

Third was Colossians 3:23,24—Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

Again, familiar words, but do they find their way into my everyday life? I was reminded this week that these words apply to all of life as I examined my attitude about missing previously planned activities in order to carry for my “cranky because she wasn’t feeling well” three year old granddaughter.

Next (and last for now) was Luke 4:42—At daybreak Jesus went out to a solitary place. The people were looking for Him and when they came to where He was, they tried to keep Him from leaving them.

What a reminder to make time with the Lord a priority in my life! If Jesus needed to purposely seek one-on-one time with His Father in order to resist being pulled every which way by people around Him, certainly I need time alone with God, too!

I’m working on others, I even have an application on my iTouch that feeds me new verses to memorize. For now, these verses keep me focused on the basics: Loving God, letting Him transform me; loving others, and nurturing my relationship with God, no matter what else I do!

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Sunday, March 8, 2009

God-Given Guts!

Based on 1 Samuel 14

What gets your adrenaline flowing? What gets your heart pumping? What causes you to decide it’s time to get moving, time to take a stand? What crystallizes your thoughts and desires into action?

In 1 Samuel 14, Jonathan decides that he’s done waiting around for the battle to come to him. He decides the time is right to take things into his own hands and make his move.

Read through 1 Samuel 14 in your Bible or at To get a better feel for the situation Jonathan finds himself in, start in chapter 13.

What causes you to decide it’s time to take a stand?

What does your answer reveal about your priorities? Who you know God to be? Your relationship with Him? His gifting and call on your life?

I especially like verse 6

"Come, let's go over to the outpost of those uncircumcised fellows. Perhaps the LORD will act in our behalf. Nothing can hinder the LORD from saving, whether by many or by few.”

The Message puts it this way

"Come on now, let's go across to these uncircumcised pagans. Maybe God will work for us. There's no rule that says God can only deliver by using a big army. No one can stop God from saving when he sets his mind to it.”

“Perhaps.” “Maybe.”

Jonathan doesn’t wait until he’s assured that he’ll be successful in his daring attempt. For him, the opportunity stirs him to action, his faith is revealed in the doing.

Plucky. Courageous. Bold. Daring. Like current day fictional heroes Indiana Jones or James Bond, or Ben Gates in National Treasure. Jonathan sees a challenge and doesn’t just say “why”; he says “why not do something about this?” He figures that if God has put a challenge in front of him, it’s because God wants him to do something.

The choice to sit and wait while the tension and dread mount or stepping out in faith to see how God will act, become crystal clear, and he knows it’s time to act.

What challenge has God put in front of you?

What do you think He wants you to do about it?

What’s stopping you?

Jonathan’s armor bearer goes with him. Jonathan is one of those guys that are always found with someone else beside them. Either he’s standing alongside his dad, the king, with his armor bearer, or his friend David. He is wise enough to develop relationships with someone who has his back, not just figuratively speaking, but someone who has a vital role to play in accomplishing the mission.

"Do all that you have in mind," his armor-bearer said. "Go ahead; I am with you heart and soul."verse 7

It reminds me of Jesus sending His disciples out in pairs (Mark 6:7 and 10:1). Jesus surrounded Himself with close friends, developed deep and abiding relationships with them, and sent them out together to serve others in His name.

Jonathan had done the same with his armor-bearer. Jonathan trusts the armor bearer completely, and the armor bearer trusts Jonathan completely. He is willing to risk what looks like certain death on the basis of his confidence in Jonathan’s leadership and God-confidence,

Who has your back?

Who are you willing to put yourself on the line to support?

Then come the words that confirm Jonathan’s courage found its source in trusting the Lord, not his own abilities

Come, then; we will cross over toward the men and let them see us. If they say to us, 'Wait there until we come to you,' we will stay where we are and not go up to them. But if they say, 'Come up to us,' we will climb up, because that will be our sign that the LORD has given them into our hands."verses 8-10

Jonathan’s thinking is reminiscent of David’s response when facing Goliath’s taunt in 1 Samuel 17

As he was talking with them, Goliath, the Philistine champion from Gath, stepped out from his lines and shouted his usual defiance, and David heard it….David asked the men standing near him, “What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and removes this disgrace from Israel? Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?”… David said to Saul, “Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him.”verses 23, 26, 32

What in your life reveals God-given guts?

What signs do you look for to know that God is calling you forward in spite of what the situation looks like from a human perspective?

What are you willing to risk to make a difference for God?

Throughout Scripture, we are called to take courage, to be strong and courageous.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love and self-discipline.—2 Timothy 1:7

God-given guts, courage, were the hallmark of early followers of Jesus

When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.—Acts 4:13

Courage flows from knowing how big God is and who Jesus is. Jonathan’s faith in God produced courage to advance against an overwhelming enemy. As Jonathan stepped out in faith, God demonstrated His power through him.

What about you?

To view the worship celebration related to this Next Step, visit

Saturday, February 28, 2009


Based on 2 Kings 7

It’s interesting to me how God frames some of His most amazing work in desperation. It’s like the darkness of life’s circumstances become the setting that allow His work to be showcased. That’s the way it is throughout the Scriptures, and poignantly so in this story.

Read it in your Bible or at (Check out 2 Kings 6:24-33 to get the background.)

Samaria, the capital of the renegade tribes of Israel, is besieged by an enemy; the people are dying from starvation, to the extent that a woman agrees to kill and eat her own child in order to live for one more day; the king has given up hope and instead of calling out to God, is looking for someone to blame, and God’s representative Elisha is the perfect target.

Desperation rules the day.

As desperate as it is within the city, where the city walls built to protect them have become the bars on their prison cell, outside the walls is a community of contagious people who aren’t even afforded the protection of living within the city walls. Excluded and cast off by the people in their community, they are open to attack by any and every enemy.

They have no control over the disease that has come upon them, no control over being rejected by others, and have accepted the reality that they are unfit for human contact, unwelcome, and unprotected from the enemy that surrounds them.

They are trapped, with no place to go.

What “un-[fill_in_the_blank]“ word describes your life?

What circumstances in your life have you feeling trapped?

But God is on the move.

Their point of desperation becomes God’s opportunity to showcase His activity.

What’s interesting when you stop and think about it is that these lepers don’t demonstrate much faith, as we tend to think of it. There is no record of them calling out to God, believing that He will intervene, counting on His character or His promises. They actually think that perhaps their enemies will be merciful to them.

Funny, isn’t it, how we long for God’s mercy and look for it in other places, while we are quick to accuse Him of not being merciful? But that’s for another time…back to the lepers.

Their actions are a simple act of survival, born out of the desperate nature of their circumstances. It’s a “something is better than nothing” attitude, an “anything is better than this” decision that prompts them to move.

What they don’t know in the moment is what the outcome will be. And so, their act of desperation becomes an act of faith. They choose to move, without visible evidence that God is anywhere in the picture.

What desperate circumstances have you feeling like your back is up against the wall?

What seems like the only way forward?

Do you dare to believe that God is somewhere in the mix, that He is the one moving, drawing you forward even if you can’t see Him past the enemy that blocks your view?

What they discover is that God is in the mix.

Their desperate circumstances, the very things that brought them to the point of deciding that now is the time to do something, is their doorway into discovering God’s power and provision, for them and for others.

Because God was on the move.

He used a sense of desperation to move the lepers forward. He used desperation, a fear of imminent danger and impending doom, to cause the enemy army to scatter.

The enemy uses desperation as a strategy to trap you, to immobilize you. God uses desperation as a tool to move you into the future He is creating.

What if God wants to use your feelings of desperation to get your attention, to open your eyes to see the situation in front of you from His perspective?

What if God wants to use your feelings of desperation to bring you to the end of yourself so that you’re ready to move beyond hopelessness into a place where you can discover His plan?

What if desperation is really the doorway to the future that God has planned?

An interesting thread in this story is the words of the prophet Elisha. As God’s representative, he dares to say out loud—and to the person in charge—that even in these desperate circumstances, God is at work.

His words frame the story:

Elisha said, "Hear the word of the LORD. This is what the LORD says:…—v. 1

…as the LORD had said…And that is exactly what happened…—v. 16, 20

What words of hope and confidence is the Lord giving you in the midst of desperate circumstances?

Who needs to hear them?

Are you looking for God in the midst of the desperate situation that surrounds you?

Jesus said—

"My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working."—John 5:17. God is on the move.

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."—John 16:33. There is hope for us when things are desperate.

Jesus’ words to Paul when he despaired, were—

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”—2 Corinthians 12:9. Jesus chooses to use desperate people who turn to Him in their weakness, and depend on His grace to keep moving forward. Look how he used Paul!


To view the worship celebration related to this Next Step, visit

Can I Be Held Responsible for My Irresponsibility?

Based on Nehemiah 1-2

As you read through the beginning of Nehemiah’s story (check the Table of Contents in your Bible or go to
to find it), you find a man who holds a responsible, trusted position, serving the king.

Kings and queens today often hold symbolic, ceremonial positions and responsibilities. Kings in Nehemiah’s day held absolute control over their people and were often served by slaves from the nations they had conquered. This was Nehemiah’s case.

Nehemiah was a Jewish man serving in the court of a foreign nation that had taken God’s people captive. When God moved in the heart of Cyrus (see 2 Chronicles 36:20-23 and Ezra 1:1-10) to allow the Jews to return to their homeland after their captivity, Nehemiah was one of the Jews who remained in captivity. Yet, when Nehemiah hears about the state of Jerusalem and its people, his heart is overwhelmed with the news of their need.

Nehemiah begins to pray and look for opportunities to become part of the solution for his brothers and sisters in need. He takes his personal concern and grief to the Lord, humbly seeking God’s intervention.

Although he has no pertinent skill or expertise to offer, Nehemiah makes himself available to God, willing to be used however God sees fit. While he waits for God to make the next step clear, Nehemiah devotes himself to prayer and to serving the master who has the authority to release him or keep him serving in his current position.

Where is God calling you to make yourself available to respond to the needs of others?

Throughout the Bible, we see stories of men and women remaining faithful in their current life circumstances, seeking God in those circumstances, and being willing and ready to respond when God calls.

We also read stories of people who used their current circumstances as excuses to avoid God’s call.

Which group do you fit into?


1. answerable or accountable, as for something within one's power, control, or management (often fol. by to or for): He is responsible to the president for his decisions.

2. involving accountability or responsibility: a responsible position

3. chargeable with being the author, cause, or occasion of something (usually fol. by for): Termites were responsible for the damage.

4. having a capacity for moral decisions and therefore accountable; capable of rational thought or action: The defendant is not responsible for his actions.

"responsible." Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. 14 Feb. 2009.>.

Scripture is clear that both men and women were created to respond to God’s call and response + able for God’s world. The fact that God gave us this responsibility means that we are accountable to God for how we use our response + ability to respond to the needs around us.

How does this definition of responsibility as “response + ability” change your perspective on what it means to live responsibly?

Are you pursuing God’s direction in living response + ably?

Redeeming Response + Ability

Sin has twisted our understanding of responsibility.

We may refuse to accept responsibility for our lives, and play the victim.

We may twist our understanding of responsibility and try to control things we were never meant to control, like God or other people.

We may run from responsibility, shoving it off toward others and burdening them with false responsibility and guilt.

We may hand over our responsibility to others, choosing to blame them for our inability to live the lives God calls us to live.

We may consciously or unconsciously take on more responsibilities than God asks us to take on, over-scheduling our lives, making us ineffective, and keeping us from being response + able to God’s voice when He speaks.

Which of these distorted concepts of responsibility tempts you or describes you?

Response + Able to God

God, as the one to whom we are first and ultimately response + able, has the right to determine the area and extent of our response + ability. When we pursue God and respond to our circumstances by depending on Him, our responses reveal His life-giving power.

For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord… For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living. You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God's judgment seat. It is written:
" 'As surely as I live,' says the Lord,
'every knee will bow before me;
every tongue will confess to God.' "

So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.—Romans 14:7-12

What do you need to give up in order to live response + ably from God’s perspective?

Ultimately, in the midst of the people and needs that call for our attention, God is the one who deserves first attention, sets our priorities, and gets the final word. Are you asking Him to show you where He wants you live response + ably?

This is what the LORD says—your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: "I am the LORD your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.”Isaiah 48:17

For whom and for what has God already given you response + ability? Nehemiah continued to be response + able where he was until God’s power and timing opened the door for him to do more. Centuries later, Paul’s words echo Nehemiah’s mindset and role model for us

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him…Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.—Colossians 3:15-17, 23, 24

What longing to make a difference is God placing in your heart as you pursue Him?

What obstacles are you trusting God to overcome so that you can live your life response + ably?

To view the worship celebration related to this Next Step, visit

Monday, February 9, 2009

Shipwrecks and Snakebites

Based on Acts 27-28

Shipwrecks and snakebites…can leave you disoriented. They tend to occur (as does the subsequent disorientation) when things don’t go as planned, or as we planned, at any rate.

Skim Acts 27:1 – 28:10 with the following questions in mind:

  • How many course corrections did Paul and his travelling companions have to make?
  • What kind of obstacles did they have to overcome?
  • How did God show up along the way to encourage and protect Paul?
  • How did God use Paul throughout his journey?
  • When all was said and done, what do you think stood out most to Paul from his experience?

Now it’s your turn:

How many course corrections have you had to make recently?

Maybe you feel like you’ve been struggling to make headway, fighting to stay on course. Paul certainly experienced that.

Listen to some of the words Luke recorded:
  • · The winds were against us
  • · We made slow headway for many days and had difficulty
  • · The wind did not allow us to hold our course
  • · We moved along the coast with difficulty
  • · Much time had been lost
  • · Sailing had already become dangerous
  • · Paul warned them, ‘Men, I can see that our voyage is going to be disastrous’
  • · A wind of hurricane force
  • · The ship was caught in the storm
  • · So we gave way to it and were driven along
  • · We took such a violent battering from the storm
  • · Neither the sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging…

What kind of obstacles are you trying to overcome?

In addition to the seemingly unending, violent weather, don’t forget that Paul started out on this journey as a prisoner, bound for his trial in Rome. And that was just the start.

His warnings of danger were ignored by those in charge.

A change of wind turned out NOT to be the good news they had hoped for. The lifeboat, and even the ship itself, were in danger of capsizing. The cargo had to be thrown overboard to help them survive, along with the equipment for sailing the ship. They had to destroy the lifeboat to keep the experienced sailors from abandoning them.

They were all in constant suspense, to the point that they didn’t eat for 14 days. The soldiers guarding them planned to kill them. The ship began to break up and they had to abandon it to save their lives.

The storm continued as they reached land, and when they built a fire to warm themselves, a deadly viper was in the branches! People judged him wrongly, condemned him, and ignored him.

Have you ever had a stretch like that?

How is God showing up to encourage and protect you along the way? How is He using you in other people’s lives during these times?

God caused Paul’s Roman guard to show kindness to Paul. God allowed Paul to reconnect with friends, friends who cared for his needs. God used Paul to warn the crew of the difficulties ahead.

When they went ahead anyway, God sent an angel to encourage Paul and to offer words of hope, courage, and a promise that they would be safe. The Roman guard listened to Paul’s warning when the sailors were going to abandon them. Paul ministered to the sailors, feeding them, and encouraging them to stay strong and not give up hope. God preserved their lives when the ship wrecked on the sandbar.

God kept the Roman guards from carrying out a plan to kill Paul, and he supernaturally protected him from the viper’s poisonous bite. God provided a home and a warm welcome with the island’s leader.

Finally, God gave Paul a platform for ministry. He opened the door for Paul to heal many people in Jesus’ name.

When the time came to leave, the bedraggled prisoner who first arrived on the island left in high honor, with all his needs supplied for the journey ahead.

What an amazing story of an underdog battling against the odds of circumstance, nature, and man, yet being used by God in the midst of the struggle. In the midst of it all, God protected Paul, preserving him for the purposes God had in mind for him. He guided Paul through the storm, encouraging Paul, and using Paul to pass on the wisdom and encouragement he received from God.

What about you? Where is God calling you to keep focused on Him in the midst of the storm? How are you passing that encouragement along to others?

When all is said and done, what will you focus on—the hardships along the way, or the grace of God that carries you through, gives you opportunities to minister to others, and opens new doors to reveal His grace as a direct result of the journey you’ve taken?

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.

We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.—Paul, writing to the Corinthian believers in 2 Corinthians, chapter 1, verses 3-11

To view the worship celebration Bible study on which this Next Step is based, visit

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Crowing Over Failure

January 25, 2009

Based on Luke 22:54-62

Then seizing him, they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest. Peter followed at a distance. But when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them. A servant girl saw him seated there in the firelight. She looked closely at him and said, "This man was with him."

But he denied it. "Woman, I don't know him," he said.

A little later someone else saw him and said, "You also are one of them.”

"Man, I am not!" Peter replied.

About an hour later another asserted, "Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean."

Peter replied, "Man, I don't know what you're talking about!”

Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: "Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times." And he went outside and wept bitterly.

Crowing over failure. Peter certainly was not crowing over failure at this particular moment. Failure was crowing over Peter.

Perhaps you know the rest of the story. Perhaps you know that Jesus restores Peter, perhaps you know the patterns of Peter’s life, perhaps you know his successes as well as his failures, perhaps you know how God used him.

Perhaps, though, you (or someone you know) are struggling with the word failure, like Peter was at that moment. When knowing that he had just let down his best friend, his God, and all of his other friends, was the overwhelming reality of his life. And he wept. Bitterly.

Some people shrug off failure like the proverbial water on a duck’s back. Others allow it to define them…or others. They seem to want to live in the failure, to be perpetual screw-ups, reliving the moment(s) of their failure, forcing others to relive failure, bowing down before failure as if it is the only thing that matters, as if failure is God’s last word to us.

For those of who don’t live in rural settings, the image of crowing over something relates more to Peter Pan than to roosters. We think of crowing over something as boastful, arrogant, brash, a mark of immaturity.

Yet Jeff painted an incredible picture of Jesus redeeming even the rooster’s crow in Peter’s life, infusing that daily sound with grace, replacing memories of failure with memories of restoration, renewed hope, and purpose, as a way of reminding Peter that each new day is a new opportunity to live for God. A picture for us of how Jesus wants to restore even the very reminders of our failures.


Where have you failed?

Have you faced the reality of your failure, as Peter did? Owning responsibility for our behavior, for our failures, opens the door to forgiveness. (Luke 22:52-64)

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.—1 John 1:9

Have you spent time with Jesus, reconciling your relationship with Him? (Luke 24:34; 1 Corinthians 15:4; John 21)

For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;

as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

As a father has compassion on his children,
so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him.
—Psalm 103:11-13

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.—Hebrews 4:15, 16

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.—Revelations 3:20

Have you been reconciled to those who were impacted by your actions? Are there steps you need to take to be reconciled with others who have been wounded by your failure? (Peter reconnected with the other disciples. See John 20 and 21.)

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God….Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.”—Matthew 5:9, 23, 24

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.—James 5:16

Are you ready? Ready to move on? Ready for God to redeem your failures? To restore your life? To recast even the memory of your failure?

"Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.

See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the desert
and streams in the wasteland.”
—Isaiah 43:18, 19

Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.

They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
—Lamentations 3:22, 23

Are you willing to offer the same forgiveness, reconciliation, human encouragement, restoration, and hope to others who have failed?

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”—Matthew 18:21, 22

And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins."—Mark 11:25

If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.—Philippians 2:1-4

To view the worship celebration related to this Next Step, visit