Monday, January 30, 2012

The Price of Sexual Sin

Too many times I hear the topic of sex watered down or completely ignored by other Christians. I think that's wrong. I can't stress how important it is that the importance of purity is presented to children and teenagers. It is a real struggle to be pure, and if the church won't help us, then we're only relying on the world for advice and accountability. That won't help us in any form or fashion. The world will just hand us condoms and birth control pills. But Jesus offers more than that. You see, you can't put a condom on your heart. And when you have sex, you're not having sex with a body. You're having sex with a soul.

The Bible says that when a man and a woman get married, they become one flesh. So when you have sex before marriage or outside of marriage, you're becoming one flesh with someone who isn't your spouse. And that's adultery. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 6:16, "Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, 'The two will become one flesh.'" So if you unite yourself sexually with someone who isn't your spouse, you're becoming one with her body in the flesh. But God didn't create sex to be something shared between anyone and everyone. God designed sex as 1) a way to procreate, and 2) provide a way for a husband and wife to show their love for one another. Any sexual activity outside of marriage is disregarding God's design for sex, and it is outside of His will. In short, it's sin.

There are a few different types of sexual sin. There's adultery and prostitution, which are often referred to in Proverbs. And there's pre-marital sex. Adultery is when you are married and have sex with someone besides your spouse or having sex with someone else's spouse. And there's prostitution, which is paying someone for sex. And there's pre-marital sex. This is quite possibly the most common of the three in America today. This basically means losing your virginity before you get married. It's probably the easiest of the three mistakes to make because you think it won't come back to bite you. A lot of teenagers and young adults are buying into the lie of "friends with benefits" or "no strings attached." But with sin, there is always a price to pay. There are things that can and will happen. STDS, AIDS, getting caught, pregnancy, and the unending shame.

My friends, do not be deceived: There is always a price. 

Proverbs 6:27-29, 32-35 says, "Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned? Can a man walk on hot coals without his feet being scorched? So is he who sleeps with another man’s wife; no one who touches her will go unpunished... But a man who commits adultery has no sense; whoever does so destroys himself. Blows and disgrace are his lot, and his shame will never be wiped away. For jealousy arouses a husband’s fury, and he will show no mercy when he takes revenge. He will not accept any compensation; he will refuse a bribe, however great it is."

Don't buy into the lies of "no strings attached" and "friends with benefits." There's always a price to pay. Are you willing to pay the price? Are diseases, embarrassment, pregnancy and parenthood, and great shame worth having sex? For those of us who are single, wait until marriage! Just remember the story of my friend who didn't wait. Do you want that to be you? It could be if you don't wait. I'm sure you're thinking, "That'll never happen to me." And for those who are married, be satisfied with your spouse! Seriously, adultery is so dumb. You have a spouse with whom you are legally free to have as much sex with as you want. Why would you want to chase any other skirt? Strive for purity. Keep sex in marriage. And always remember: there is a price.

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Pursuit of Wisdom

As Valentine's Day is getting close, I want to switch my focus from servant leadership to romance. As I'm sure any faithful reader knows, I love romance. I like to watch the "girly" love movies like The Notebook, and I enjoy listening to love songs. I find love stories to be captivating and thrilling, and I love to hear married couples' share their love stories. I think romance is wonderful and I can't wait until I'm in a relationship of my own.

Several months ago, I wrote a post called Matching Wisdom With Romance. In that post, I talked about how impatient I was to get married. I really wanted to fall in love, to give my heart away, to revel in the beauty of romance. But I wasn't ready for it. I knew I wasn't ready and so I began to ask God how to get ready. And believe it or not, God began to show me some areas I needed to work on. God showed me that I was still a pretty cocky, selfish young man, and that if I ever wanted His blessing and guidance in romance, I needed to change. I needed to become wiser, smarter, and more humble.

The first thing I did was to commit to read a chapter of Proverbs a day. I've done that since October and God has really opened my eyes to the world of wisdom. I have learned a lot just by reading Proverbs. Through Proverbs, God began to teach me and show me what a man of wisdom looks like. He began to teach me that a man of wisdom will control his emotions and reactions. He will control his tongue, to the best of his ability. He will choose his friends wisely. He will oversee his fiances well. He will avoid sexual immorality. He will accept and welcome advice. He will be generous. He will be humble. And He will have integrity.

I want to become wise. I want to be like the man I just described. And that's why I've been pursuing wisdom. In the beginning of November, I approached the operator of my Chick-fil-A and told him I was interested in becoming a Team Leader. A Team Leader is the right-hand man of the managers. The Team Leaders assist and oversee the Team Members in their duties, and aid the managers in any way possible. They are in positions of leadership and represent the operator and Chick-fil-A while on and off the clock. I believed that becoming a Team Leader was the next step for me. So my operator started me on the process to see if he thought I would make a good leader. I should note that he wasn't guaranteeing me the position; as I said, he put me on a process to see if I would make a good leader. One of the things he did was to give me several of his favorite books on leadership, the very same books I have mentioned repeatedly in my blog posts, such as The Secret and The Servant.

Of all the books, The Servant by James Hunter impacted me the most. I really can't even begin to talk about how much Hunter's take on servant leadership has changed how I look at leadership. It was from his book that I've based my recent series on agape love and the qualities of a servant leader. The Servant changed my life and how I looked at leadership.

In my pursuit of becoming a Team Leader, I think I found the wisdom I was looking for. I found something that changed my life. It changed how I wanted to lead and how I wanted to treat people. It's changed how I look at my relationships with family and friends. It's affected my life on so many levels. And that's why I've been passing it on to you. If it has changed my life, it can change yours. And I hope it has been.

Like I mentioned, this all started when I began to pursue wisdom so that I could match wisdom with romance. And now that I feel like I'm getting a good grasp on this wisdom, I can't help but wonder if maybe romance isn't far away. I'm really excited about what God's done in my heart and at my job, and I'm a different person than I was four months ago. I'm really excited about my future. And I'm also excited and anticipating romance. I'm such a hopeless romantic and get goosebumps just thinking about my future wife. But I don't want to idolize romance or depend on it. I'm content with being single. I don't know that I could be content with being single for my whole life, but for now, I am. I want to be in love with a young woman, but even more, I want to stay in love with God. I don't want romance until I've assured myself that it won't be a distraction from God.

As we look at romance from a Godly perspective in the next few weeks, I want to keep using the "love is a verb" definition. Even in romance, true love is the same as agape love. You aren't really in love if you don't unconditionally love the other person. If you really want to be in love, if you really want to love and be loved, then you need to be patient, kind, humble, respectful, selfless, honest, forgiving, and committed. You need to be a servant leader in your romantic relationship. Otherwise, you're just a selfish lover.

Join with me in the next few weeks as we look at romance from a Godly perspective!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Leadership, Love, and Following Christ

Over the past few weeks, we've been looking at servant leadership and agape love. We looked at Hunter's list of servant leadership qualities and a list of qualities derived from 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a. These two lists have really impacted me, and hopefully they've influenced you, too. But there's one more list I want to share with you. I've been holding on to this third list of qualities for a while now. This list wasn't suggested to me by The Servant; I actually thought of it myself. One day, I began to wonder if there are any other lists of qualities anywhere in the Bible, and I thought of a list that is shockingly close to Hunter's list. It blew my mind and made me see the Gospel in a whole new light. I was surprised when I saw how all three lists are so eerily similar, and yet they are supposed to be about different things. This third list is from a famous passage in the Bible, and you might have even thought of it earlier than I did. But before I reveal to you the third list, I want to review the first two with you so they will be fresh in your mind.

The first list is the list of qualities of servant leadership. We looked at them in The Qualities of a Servant Leader. The qualities are: honest, trustworthy, good role model, caring, committed, good listener, holds people accountable, treats people with respect, gives people encouragement, positive, enthusiastic attitude, and appreciates people.

The second list is a list of qualities about agape love, which means unconditional love. These qualities are found in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a: patience, kindness, humility, respectfulness, selflessness, forgiveness, honesty, and commitment. This particular list has really made a difference in my life. When I saw that Jesus was talking about how we treat people, and not how we feel towards people, then suddenly it seems a whole lot more realistic to love our enemies, forgive as we have been forgiven, judge not lest we be judged, and to love others as much as Christ loves us.

These are life-changing qualities. If you apply all of these qualities to your life, then you will no doubt become a servant leader. But there is one more list of qualities I want you to look at.

If you remember, in The Qualities of a Servant Leader, I said that love and leadership go hand-in-hand. If you want to be a servant leader, you have to love those under your charge. There's no way around this. You have to have agape love if you want to be a servant leader. If you don't have unconditional love, then you'll never meet your full potential as a leader. If you don't have unconditional love, you won't be a model of Christ's love. If you don't have unconditional love, you won't be able to love others as much as He loves you. You won't be able to love your enemies. You won't be able to forgive as Christ forgives you. You won't be able to serve Him with your whole heart, mind, and soul if you don't have unconditional love. And that's why agape love is so critical: without it, your relationship with Christ will not be as strong as it could be.

If you don't believe me yet, I want you to look at the third list. This list of qualities shows you qualities a servant leader will have, what unconditional love looks like, and also what qualities a Christian will have. You probably know it as the Fruit of the Spirit:

  • Love
  • Joy
  • Peace
  • Patience
  • Kindness
  • Goodness
  • Faithfulness
  • Gentleness
  • Self-Control
These nine qualities are the Fruit of the Spirit. If the Spirit of God lives in you (and you have to have the Spirit to be a Christian, Romans 8:9), then these are the nine qualities you will possess. In Matthew 7:16-19, Jesus talks about how to recognize a false prophet from a genuine Christian. He said, "Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them." By their fruit, you will recognize them. Jesus said you will be able to tell the difference between the non-believers and the believers by their respective fruit.

In Galatians 5, Paul gives us a detailed list about what those fruits are. Galatians 5:19-21 is the list of bad fruit, the qualities and behaviors the non-Christians will possess and follow. Paul said that those who exhibit those fruit will not inherit eternal life. In Galatians 5:22-23, Paul gives us a list of the good fruit, the qualities Christians will possess. That list is known as the Fruit of the Spirit, and it's that same list that mirrors our other lists. Though they use different words, all three lists are describing the same things. Do you find it strange that a list describing a servant leader, a list describing unconditional love, and a list describing a Christ-follower are all essentially identical?

So what have we learned? What's the point of everything we just learned? In short, the point is that as Christians, we are to be servant leaders, and we are to love unconditionally. Isn't this what Jesus was telling us to do? Isn't that what He was saying when He said to love others as He loves us, forgive as you have been forgiven, judge not lest you be judged, love your enemies, and to take care of the poor, widows, and orphans?

Go and bear the fruit of the spirit. Display the qualities of a servant leader. Love people unconditionally. In doing so, you will bring glory and attention to God. In John 15:8, Jesus said, "This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples."

Friday, January 20, 2012

Commitment: Sticking To Your Choices

Commitment is one of my core values. I like to make decisions and stick to them. I'm usually not the type of person to be really indecisive about stuff. Indecisive people drive me insane. Some of my friends (bless their little hearts) really struggle with making decisions. Chocolate or vanilla? Coke or Dr Pepper? This college or that college? Eat at that restaurant or that one? Talk about this or talk about that? Indecisiveness drives me insane! So I really like the definition of commitment: sticking with your choices. I fully believe in sticking with your choices. When you pick something, stick to it. Don't waver back and forth. It saves time and effort to just pick something and go with it. It may take time to decide some things, like where you want to go to college, or whether or not to ask your girlfriend's hand in marriage (and those decisions do require an immense amount of prayer and thought), but once you've made a decision, you owe it to everyone to stick to your choice.

If you want to be a servant leader, it will take commitment. That's why commitment is probably the most important of all eight qualities. You have to be committed to agape love if you want to be a servant leader. It takes commitment to be patient. It takes commitment to be kind. It takes commitment to be humble. It takes commitment to be respectful, selfless, forgiving, and honest. If you want to be a servant leader, you need to be committed to it.

I can promise you that it won't be easy. It won't be easy, and that's why you'll need commitment. Having all eight of these qualities will not come naturally. It takes a lot of hard work and strenuous effort to apply all eight characteristics of agape love to your life. There are going to be times when you mess up, and times when you want to give up completely. I can promise you trouble, trials, and tribulations.

Sometimes I succeed and act like a servant leader, and those times are happening more and more frequently. But other times, I don't act like a servant leader. There are times when I am a selfish leader. I am not always patient, kind, humble, respectful, selfless, forgiving, and honest. But I'm not perfect, and I require to be loved unconditionally just like everyone else does. It takes an immense amount of commitment for me to stick with servant leadership, but it's so worth it.

The good news is that Proverbs 16:3 tells us, "Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed." If you stick to it, if you hang in there, and if you stay committed, you will reap the benefits of servant leadership. You will discover new life in the arms of agape love. I know I have. In the past two months that I've been learning about servant leadership, I have become a different person. I see Scripture through new eyes. I see people through new eyes. I see my job through new eyes. I see the church through new eyes. And I see the purpose to my existence through new eyes. I now fully understand why I should treat others like I want to be treated. Now I understand why the second greatest commandment Jesus gave was to love others like we loved ourselves.

If you are patient, kind, humble, respectful, selfless, forgiving, honest, and committed, then you'll treat others how you want to be treated. You'll not only be a great person to be around, but an excellent example to follow. Being a servant leader is a high calling. The truth is that not everyone is a leader, but everyone has the potential to be one. Are you a leader? Will you find it in yourself to commit to servant leadership? Will you take the challenge of becoming a role model for others to look up to? Or will you fade into the oblivion of selfishness like everyone else?

What will you commit to? The choice is yours.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Honesty: Don't Buy The Lie

*Before you read this post, I know I said I would start posting on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. And that's what I've been doing and will keep doing. The reason this post is going up on Thursday is because we lost power yesterday and I couldn't finish my post. Sorry for any inconvenience!


Honesty is very valuable to possess, not only as a servant leader, or as a Christian, but as a human being. If you don't understand honesty and apply its principles to your life, then you'll lead a life of deceit and lies. That isn't a lifestyle that anyone can sustain for long. The problem with dishonesty and deceit is that one day, someone will find out your secret. You can't hide everything forever. Even if you die before the truth comes out, the truth will always come out, one way or another. And so it's important to be truthful from the beginning. Don't believe the lie that lies can benefit you: they won't. Telling a lie is only shooting yourself in the foot. However, being honest, even when it hurts, will always help you in the long run.

Now just like all the other qualities, honesty also has a definition. Honesty means being free from deception. A lot of people think that being truthful simply means not telling a lie. But it's more than that. Honesty means to communicate without deception. That means that telling part of the truth is lying. That means not speaking up about something when you know you should is lying. That means that little white lies are lies. Anytime you do something that's meant to deceive someone, it's a lie.

I believe the reason honesty is so important is because honesty builds trust. Honesty builds trust because when you always tell the truth, people will grow to trust that you will be truthful. When someone is always honest with me, even at their own expense, then they have earned my trust. Now I may not trust them in the way of giving them my car keys for the day, but I would trust what they say. I would value their opinion. I would know that whatever they have to say is from their heart and I can trust what comes out of their mouth.

Trust should be at the center of every relationship. Some people would say that love- not trust- should be the center of every relationship. But I disagree. You can trust someone without loving them and that relationship will still be somewhat good. It won't ever meet its full potential, but it's better than the relationship in which you love a person but cannot trust him or her. For example, imagine a situation in which a father has two son (disclaimer: this isn't the prodigal son story). Now imagine with me that the father doesn't truly love one son, yet that son has earned his father's trust and so he has entrusted all of his possessions and finances to that son. While love isn't in the picture, they work well together and get along fairly well. And now imagine with me that the father desperately loves his other son, yet that son is dishonest and deceitful, so his father can trust him with nothing. He has to babysit him and always be watching over him, because that son has a history of lying to his father. Now which relationship would you rather be in? The one without love? Or the one without trust? I would much rather be in the relationship with trust.

That's why I value honesty: because honesty builds trust, and trust should be the center of every relationship. And honesty is an especially important quality for a servant leader, because a leader, you expected to be a man of integrity. A leader who is dishonest is not worthy of the position he holds. It really is easier to just tell the truth from the beginning. I'm sure we've all witnessed public figures get caught in the act of lying. Look at how many athletes in recent years have gotten in trouble for lying to government officials about steroid use. And look at the number of politicians who are dishonest. How often do we see a politician say one thing during the elections but do another when they're in office? Bill Clinton comes to mind.

So many prominent figures have tarnished their reputations because they tried to lie to the public. The easiest thing to do is to not do the act in the first place so you don't have to lie to cover it up! There is a reason the Bible is so emphatic on telling the truth: it's to protect us. It's to keep us from the harm and headache that comes from lying. Proverbs 19:5, 9 warns, "A false witness will not go unpunished, and whoever pours out lies will not go free... A false witness will not go unpunished, and whoever pours out lies will perish." We should tell the truth because it's the right thing to do and because it's in our best interest to.

Your life will be easier if you choose honesty over deceit. As Christians, as servant leaders, I ask you to be honest. Don't buy the lie that deception benefits you. Live a life of honesty and integrity. Build relationships through trust. Choose to live with a clear conscious. Choose honesty.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Forgiveness: Being Blinded by Bitterness

Forgiving those who have wronged you can be one of the hardest things to do. Our nature tells us to take revenge, to pay them back, to take the situation into our own hands. The world says, "An eye for an eye." And that's the rule we live by. When someone disrespects us, we disrespect them. When they gossip about us, we gossip back. When they swing a punch, we hit back. That's what we, by nature, will do. That's why it's really hard to forgive.

In The Servant, James Hunter defines forgiveness as giving up resentment when wronged. Being able to forgive is very important, especially for a servant leader. As a leader, people will let you down. No matter how good of a leader you are or how successful your company or organization is, people are not perfect and they will still fail sometimes. And you need to learn how to forgive. Hunter writes, "As the leader, if you are not able to let go of the resentment, it will consume you and render you ineffective."

It's important to forgive because if you don't, you're succumbing to bitterness. And whether you're a leader or not, you definitely don't want to let bitterness anywhere near you. For a few years, I let bitterness grow in my heart. In my Freshman year, I lost my best friend. She stopped wanting to be my friend and told me that. We were really close and I felt betrayed. I was betrayed. It was hard to get over that friendship. The same thing happened again in my Sophomore year. I lost another good friend because she didn't want to be my friend anymore! I had spent so much time investing in these relationships and had gotten close to each friend, all for nothing. It was really hard to lose those friends. One day, we were best friends; the next, we weren't. I was blindsided and betrayed and I became bitter. I became very bitter towards them. Very bitter. I began to hate those two people and wished harm would come to them. I wanted so badly to be able to take revenge on them.

I once heard a preacher say, "Bitterness is the poison you drink thinking it will kill somebody else." I've also heard that bitterness is a prison cell without doors. Imagine being locked away in a prison cell, a cell without doors. Nothing is keeping you from walking out. You are totally free to leave the jail at any time. But because you're blinded by bitterness, you can't see the way out. You're too blinded by hate to know there is no door on your cell. By harboring hatred and bitterness, you are placing yourself in a prison cell. You're trapping yourself in that jail because you are not able to forgive.

Do you know a person who has let bitterness and resentment take control of his or her life? I'm going to guess they are always in a bad mood, always unhappy, always rude and mean, and always very bitter. There is one man I know of who will tell you he is stuck in a boring, mundane, dead-end job. And he lets it sap the life out of him. He is a great man of God. He is a great teacher of the Word and has shared a lot of wisdom with me. But he sure can be rather grouchy. Another person I know is homeless and blames the government for all of his problems. And I don't just mean his homelessness. I mean everything. When anything bad happens, he unreasonably blames the government. He has allowed bitterness to blind him for so long that he can no longer see reality.

A lot of people find it hard to forgive, and I think that's because many people don't know how to forgive. I think many people don't know how to forgive because they say they forgive someone, but they still feel the pain. It's easy to say you forgive the one who wronged you, but the pain, the memories, and the scars are still there. You can't erase them. You can't simply block out all the bad things that have happened to you. A lot of people mistakenly confuse pain with resentment. They see them as the same thing but they aren't. Remember that forgiveness is letting go of resentment; it doesn't say to let go of pain. I don't think you should bury the pain or ignore it. And that's why forgiveness is simply letting go of your bitterness and resentment. It's you choosing to walk out of the prison cell. That's why forgiveness is about you letting go of your ill feelings, not your pain. You may always feel that pain, or it may go away with time; but to forgive is to let go of resentment.

There's one thing I notice about bitter people: they let the situation they're in control who they are. They let other people determine the attitude they will have. And that's not a Christlike behavior. We as Christians and as servant leaders cannot let bad situations and bad people corrupt our attitude. If we allow the actions or attitudes of others determine the attitude and behavior we have, then we aren't controlling ourselves.

My dad told me a story about Bruce Lee, the late world-renowned martial arts expert and actor. During a filming of a The Green Hornet television show episode, Lee (who played Kato, a butler-by-day, super-hero-by-night type of character) was on set in his butler clothes. Some people who thought they were important saw him and mistook him for a hired hand because he was Asian and short and in "servant's" clothes. They barked at him and gave him a command to go get their car. But then a lady chewed them out for being disrespectful and arrogant. She told them they were talking to the Bruce Lee. They just walked away. She went up to Lee and asked if being stereotyped like that ever irritated him. He replied, "If I let it irritate me, I wouldn't be Bruce Lee."

That's exactly how Christians and how servant leaders should look at forgiveness. We should forgive; we should let go of resentment. We shouldn't let things get to us. Now that doesn't mean the pain will go away. But it does mean we are on the path of healing. Bitterness can literally sap health and strength from your body. Don't let it. Instead, choose to heal. Choose to forgive. Let go of your hatred, your bitterness. It's only harming you. When you're tempted with taking revenge, don't do it. Don't take things into your own hands. Instead, put the situation in God's hands. Romans 12:19 says, "Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: 'It is mine to avenge; I will repay,'  says the Lord.'" Let Him deal with it. That person will deal with their sin one day. Let Him handle it. Revenge isn't yours to take; it's God's. If you really want to get back at someone, then follow what Romans 12:20 says, "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head."

Friday, January 13, 2012

Selflessness: Meeting the Needs of Others

The fifth quality of agape love, selflessness, is very easy to understand. But before we get started, I don't want you to get selflessness and humility confused; they are two very different things. Humility is being authentic without pretense or arrogance. Selflessness is meeting the needs of others. It means you will serve others before serving yourself. It means meeting the needs of others even if it means doing so at the expense of fulfilling your own. Selflessness does require humility, but it isn't humility. You need to be humble in order to even be able to serve others first, but they are still two different things.

The basic concept of selflessness is to use your resources for the good of others. It's using your time, your money, your talents, and your spiritual gifts for the good of others. It's the epitome of extending, denying, and sacrificing yourself for others.

Now maybe this doesn't exactly sound very appealing. And I'll be up front with you: it isn't. It's not fun. It hurts. It takes a lot- if not everything- out of you. No one is naturally giddy when God calls them to sell all their possessions and give that money to the poor. It's really hard for missionaries to say goodbye to beloved friends, family, and their comfort zones and go live in a dirty, impoverished, disease-stricken foreign country. It's not easy for us to open our wallets to a person in need, especially when we, in our pride, believe they don't deserve the money (as if we ourselves deserve it). And it's even more impossible to get someone to committing their time to something. We'd rather spend our time making money or chilling out on the couch in front of a screen than to volunteer or do community work.

I'm not saying any of this judgmentally. I'm calling it like it is. I'm the same way. I'm a high school senior who has college and gas to pay for, and I'm saving up to hopefully be able to provide for a family of my own one day. I admit it takes some grease for my hands to willingly give money away to charities and ministries I don't know much about. I'm comfortable giving my money to my church and to World Vision (particularly the 30 Hour Famine), but it isn't easy for me to give money to other ministries. I tell myself that I like to know what my money is being used for. But I'm really just hiding behind greed. When I am not trusting God with my money and not giving it away, I'm really just telling God that I don't trust Him to provide for me.

And it's also hard for me to commit my time. I have classes and a job, and usually that's all I want to commit to. I don't like to overstretch myself. But in reality, I have plenty of free time to use to help others. I would rather spend my time at home watching TV or playing video games or hanging with friends than to use my time doing something with eternal value for Christ. I'm guilty of this just like I'm sure you are.

Do you believe you use your talents for the good of others? This question may take a little longer to answer. You first have to ask what your talents are. And you have to ask what you're doing right now for the good of others. If the answers to these two questions differ, then you aren't using your talents for the good of others. The Bible says, "...whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus..." (Col. 3:17). Whether you are a talented musician, a talented accountant, a talented pilot, a talented writer, a talented watchmaker, a talented computer geek, a talented interior/exterior designer, a talented businessman, a talented painter, a talented fashion designer, a talented athlete, a talented actor, or a talented chef, you should use your talents to honor God and to serve others. I'm sure we can all think of wonderful examples of people who could've used their talent to glorify themselves, but they instead used it to serve others. Kirk Cameron comes to my mind. If you don't know his story, I encourage you to check him out. Truett Cathy is another example I think of. He toiled for years and years in the restaurant business. He was an extremely hard worker. He could've kept all his money for himself and become stingy and selfish, but he just keeps looking for ways to bless others, particularly children, with his time, money, talents, and spiritual gifts.

And let's not forget spiritual gifts. I don't really have time to get into this topic, as it demands a post of its own, but I will tell you that every Christian has spiritual gifts. There are all kinds of different gifts. Some people are great encouragers, some are very wise and discerning, some are natural leaders, some are skilled at communicating God's love to the lost, and some have a way with humor. These are just a few examples of some gifts. But the thing about your gifts is that they only become a gift when you give them away. If you hold onto your gift and never give it away, you're missing out on an incredible opportunity to see how God can work through you. After all, it is better to give than to receive.

Proverbs 11:24-25 says, "One man gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed."

I hope that after reading this post, you'll be encouraged and inspired to live selflessly. It's my hope that you'll choose to give away your time, money, talents, and gifts. It will be hard. I know that from experience. But it's worth it. It is so worth it. It's worth it to see the smiles on their faces. It's worth it to know you've helped someone. It's worth it to know that you've done what God wanted. It's worth it o see God working through you. I dare you to fall in love with your followers. Fall in love with those under your power and influence. Look for ways to serve them. Look for ways to make them smile. Use your gifts to put a smile on their faces. I guarantee you that you don't know true joy until you make a habit of making others smile. There's no better feeling than knowing you've made someone smile with joy. Bring joy to others. Be selfless. Be Christ.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Respect: Quick to Listen, Slow to Speak, and Slow to Become Angry

The fourth quality on James Hunter's list of leadership qualities is respectfulness. This is an important quality to possess if you want to win over your followers. If you don't respect those you are leading, they will not follow for long. And it isn't easy to be respectful without first learning humility, which we just talked about in Humility: Being Authentic, Being You.

Let's look at how Hunter defines what respect is. Respect is treating others as important people- because they are.

Now hold up. You might be assuming I'm talking about sucking up or kissing up to people, or being soft on them, or being a wimpy leader, or something like that. I'm not. Instead, I'm saying to treat everyone like they are important. Because they are important. Having respect for those you lead means you'll treat the forklift driver like the president of the company, the students like the principal of the school, your teammates like the coach, your siblings like your grandparents, and so on. If you are respectful, then you will give those in lowly positions as much respect as you give those in high positions.

And isn't that at the core of Jesus' teachings? John 13:34 records Jesus to say, "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another." Doesn't that mean we should treat others like we would Christ? Doesn't that mean we should love them like we do Christ? Yes and yes! And I believe that's true respect. To treat the created like the Creator. To give the clay pots the same respect as the Potter. Now don't get all upset and think I'm saying to to worship people or anything like that! I'm just saying that if you want to possess true respect, you need to learn to not treat the Creator's creation like trash, because that itself is disrespecting the Creator. Instead, treat the Creator's creation in a way that shows respect to the Creator.

You've probably heard people say that they won't respect someone unless that person earns their respect. I think that is a faulty and selfish way to look at respect. I think every human deserves respect to some degree. Don't you? We're all created by God, and we're all human beings. I think every individual should be respected just for that. We are all pots of clay, and we are all formed by the same potter. He took the same amount of time and preparation to make each pot of clay. No human is naturally more important or special to God than another is. Yes, there are Christians and non-Christians. And there's an eternity of difference between the two. But I believe we owe each person, saved or unsaved, respect. I believe we should treat each individual as an important person because they are important to God. The lost are very important to God because "while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom. 5:9). Jesus didn't come for the "clean", but the unclean (Luke 5:31). And if the lost were unimportant to God, then His last instruction to us would not have been to tell everyone in the world about Him so that they too might become saved (Matt. 28:19-20). That alone is enough reason to treat someone with respect.

But we also need to know how to treat someone with respect. In other words, what are some specific ways you can apply respect to your life? The answer is found in James 1:19, which says, "Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry." I believe this verse shares the guiding principles of respect. So let's look at each of the three principles.

Everyone should be quick to listen. I think listening is one of the most over-looked qualities in leadership. Think back to the best teachers, coaches, and mentors you've ever had. Do you remember them being great listeners? When they listened to you, did they give you their undivided attention? Did they look you in the eye? Did they let you finish without cutting in to say something? Chances are that they probably did all of these things, and chances are that they earned your respect because they listened to you. When you listen intently to someone, you're telling them they are important. You're telling them that they are worth your time. If you become a good listener (giving undivided attention, making eye contact, and closing your mouth), it'll be much easier for your followers to respect you.

Everyone should be slow to speak. This means to give thought to what you say before you say it. If you want be smart, intelligent, and wise, don't speak without thinking. Evaluate what you say before you say it. Being slow to speak also means that you shouldn't speak too quickly after the other person finishes. If you start speaking as soon as the other person finishes, that means you've probably only been thinking about what you were going to say and you weren't listening to what the other person was saying. That shows disrespect, not respect. To show respect by being slow to speak, you need to evaluate what you're about to say and also allow a few seconds to pass before offering your thoughts or opinions to show that you were listening. Those few seconds are crucial because you need that time to evaluate your thoughts and to evaluate what the other person just said.

Everyone should be slow to become angry. This one should be easy to understand. It means to not let your anger get the best of you. It isn't exactly fitting for a leader to throw a temper tantrum, so control your anger and your emotions. Proverbs 12:16 says, "Fools show their annoyance at once, but the prudent overlook an insult." You'll never earn someone's respect if you constantly blow up in their face. Learn to be patient and to have self-control (sound familiar? Patience: The First Quality of Agape Love). Be patient with people and you will earn their respect.

And there you have it. You now have the tools to become a respected servant leader. Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry. Show your followers that they are important to you. Treat others like important people, because they are imporant.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Humility: Being Authentic, Being You

The greatest two commandments that Jesus gave us are about loving everyone except ourselves. His commands are 1) To love God with all our heart, mind, and soul, and 2) To love others as we love ourselves (Matt. 22:37-40). He tells us to love God unconditionally, and to love others as He loves us. He asks us to love. To agape love. To love unconditionally. To love sacrificially. To love humbly. And that's what the third quality of agape love is: humility

In The Servant, Hunter defines humility as "being authentic and without pretense or arrogance." Now you may be wondering how being authentic and without pretense or arrogance will help us be humble. After all, isn't humility just thinking less of yourself? Isn't it valuing yourself less? Isn't it seeing yourself as being lowly or worthless? No, no, and no. It isn't. Hunter writes, "Humility to me is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less." In case you didn't catch the significance of that, read it again. Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.

So let's look at how we should treat others. In the second greatest commandment, He tells us to love others as we love ourselves. He's telling us to treat others as we treat ourselves. He asks us to love others, to forgive others, to serve others, to provide for others, and to look out for others in the same way we would for ourselves. In short, He instructed us to extend ourselves, deny ourselves, and sacrifice ourselves for the sake of others. This is a high and mighty calling, one we cannot meet if we are living selfishly. We cannot follow Christ if our lives are all about us. The purpose to our existence is to bring glory and attention to God. We cannot do this if we are living to glorify ourselves. Nor can we do it if we aren't extending, denying, and sacrificing ourselves for others.

So what do we have to do? What must we do to learn humility? How do we find it within us to extend, deny, and sacrifice ourselves for God and for others? The answer is humility. We have to become humble.
Being authentic means you're being real, genuine, not fake. It means being honest and open. It means not putting on a show or a masquerade. It simply means being real. Someone once said, "Humbleness is nothing more than a true knowing of yourself and your limitations. Those who see themselves as they truly are would surely be humble indeed."

I think it's important for us to know who we really are. We know need to know the true state of our hearts. We need to know our limitations as human beings. When I need to remember who I really am, one of my favorite passages to read is Isaiah 59. Every time I read this passage, I'm humbled. I remember the true state of humanity. I remember why I need Christ so much, and why it's so important to obey God's commands and to love others. It's too long to share in this post, but I highly encourage you to go read it on your own. It'll only take three or four minutes to read and is well worth it.

As we draw to a close, I want to encourage you to be authentic with others. Be real. Don't wear a mask or fake it. Don't try to make yourself look better than you really are. Don't live for yourself.  Live for God; live for others. Focus on God and on others and not on yourself. Strive to make someone's day by being kind, and remember that your purpose in life is to glorify and bring attention to God. Love God with everything you have; treat others like He treats you.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Kindness: The 2nd Mile Approach to Agape Love

What is kindness? As I sat down to write about kindness, I realized that I didn't really know what kindness is. I think kindness is one of those things that most everyone understands, but the definition isn't quite so easy to pin down. For example, I bet you could give me an example of an act of kindness, but it'd probably be harder for you to give me the definition of kindness. I even looked in the dictionary, but the dictionary itself barely managed to formulate a definition for kindness without using the word "kind" in the definition. But that's actually good news for me because that allows me to give kindness my own definition, which is exactly what I wanted to do.

At Chick-fil-A, we have a value called 2nd Mile Service. It's a concept of not just going the first mile for our guests; we want to go the 2nd Mile. Now what do we mean by that? 2nd Mile Service is when you go the second mile for someone, after already having gone the first. It's when you go above and beyond for a customer.  My definition of kindness is that kindness is when you treat others with honor, dignity, and respect. It's combining an others-first attitude with a servant's heart. Kindness is the epitome of the do-to-others-as-you-would-have-them-do-to-you attitude. It's randomly (or purposefully) making someone's day or life better.

I'm sure you can easily think of many numerous acts of kindness that you've witnessed, given, or received in your life. One of my favorite acts of kindness happens when a person who comes through our Drive-Thru pays for the order of the car behind them. I just love it when this happens! It's so cool because the giver always has this big, joyful smile on his or her face. That person truly understands that it is better to give than to receive. And the receiver never fails to have an incredulous smile on his or her face when we tell them that the car in front of them paid for their food. Their unbelieving, awkward smile always turns into a big grin and they can't help but laugh at the kindness of the car in front of them. And sometimes, the receiver of the gift will turn around and pay for the car behind them. The Saturday after Thanksgiving, I remember three separate cars paying for each others' food. One car paid for the car behind them, and that car paid for the car behind them, and that car paid for the car behind them! It just kept on going and was such a joy to witness. There is nothing like seeing all those smiles, all that joy, and all that kindness. It was the talk of the day at my Chick-fil-A. And some people still talk about it when the subject arises.

But 2nd Mile Service isn't a quality applicable only to Chick-fil-A employees. You can obtain 2nd Mile Service, too. Think about some ways you can serve those around you. What are some simple things you can do for your family members, your friends, your neighbors, your church family, that would make their day better? Let me give you some examples. Do your chores without your mom having to ask you to. When you clean your side of the bathroom, clean your siblings' too. Buy your friend's order next time you go to your local Chick-fil-A. It can be as big as mowing an elderly neighbor's yard for them for free, or as small as pointing out a stranger's untied shoelace to him. You can give your neighbor free cookies- with no strings attached. You can encourage someone. You can tell someone how much they mean to you. The idea is essentially to do something to lighten someone else's load. To help them out. To make their day. And to put a smile on their face.

Now that isn't always easy. Sometimes, they don't deserve your kindness. And it's really hard to be kind to someone who doesn't deserve it. For example, if your sibling or friend just intentionally did something really mean to you, it's not easy to want to do their laundry for them or pay for their food or to do anything kind for them at all. And here's where another twist on kindness comes in: grace. Now maybe you're wondering how I'm going to connect grace with kindness. Let me show you. Ever heard the saying, "Grace is receiving what you don't deserve, and mercy is when you don't receive what you do deserve"? That's exactly what I'm talking about here. Grace is when you show kindness to someone who doesn't deserve it. Grace is showing kindness by treating others with honor, dignity, and respect... even when they don't deserve it.

Jesus often talked about doing kind things for others when they don't deserve it. In Luke 6:27-31, Jesus says, "'But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.'" And Proverbs 25:21-22 says, "If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you."

Let me remind you that Jesus said, "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" If we want to obey Jesus, we have to love others as we love ourselves. We have to love others more than we love ourselves. Imagine if we could take the love we have for ourselves and instead use that love for others... Wouldn't that be so incredible?! That would be true selflessness, true humility, true humbleness, true Christ-likeness.

Now you should also remember that love is a verb. The love that Jesus tells us to have for others is Agape Love- an unconditional love. That means we're supposed to love others even when they don't deserve it. Jesus loved us when we didn't deserve it. Romans 5:8 says, "... God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Wow. Now that is true kindness. True grace. True love.

Jesus calls us to have this same love for others. He tells us to go the 2nd Mile for others. He commands us to love others in the same way He did: with kindness and grace. He tells us to show the world His Agape Love. And one way to do that is through kindness. That is why I believe that kindness is one of the most important qualities for servant leaders to display.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Patience: The First Quality of Agape Love

I think one of my least favorite things to do is to be patient. It's so hard to be patient. It just doesn't come naturally to me. So when I saw that patience was a servant leadership quality in James Hunter's list, I internally groaned. In The Way I Lead, remember that I confessed that my leadership style is to just take over someone else's job if they aren't performing to my expectations. So when I read Hunter's list, it just reaffirmed what I knew about having to work on my patience.

The dictionary defines patience as, "An ability or willingness to suppress restlessness or annoyance when confronted with delay." And that perfectly describes the exact opposite of how I usually act when confronted with delay. As I said, my response when confronted with delay is to act on my restlessness. But as we looked at in The Way I Lead, that isn't a good way to lead. I used the example of a person bagging orders slower than I would like them to. If I were to step in and start doing their job, I'm making two major mistakes. 1) It causes me to fall behind in my work, and 2) it denies that person the opportunity to gain experience. Your followers can't learn from their mistakes if you don't give them a chance to.

You have to be patient enough to let people mess up. There are no perfect people, so there are no perfect performances, especially from new people or slow learners. You have to give people the chance to learn by trial-and-error. You have to let them make their mistakes so they can learn from them. This is an incredibly important lesson to learn for any servant leader, but more so if you're the training director, parents of preteens, or a youth pastor. In those types of jobs, your role as leader is essentially to groom young people to become the best they can be. We all know young people make plenty of mistakes, so it takes a lot of patience to lead them.

In The Servant, Hunter looked at patience in a way that I never really had before. He described patience as showing self-control. And that makes sense, right? That's basically a shortened version of the dictionary's definition. Patience means showing self-control. I really like looking at patience that way. It makes it feel easier to be patient. When I hear the word patient, I cringe and think of patience as an impossibility. But if I think of patience as simply showing self-control, suddenly I feel like I can be patient. It makes the task seem easier and it makes me think I might actually be able to be patient.

Have you ever seen a leader lose control of his or her emotions? It's never pretty to see the leader throwing a tantrum or going on a rant, is it? Many leaders have gotten in hot water because they lost control of their emotions. Just think of the number of professional or college coaches who have gotten in trouble for throwing a tantrum in post-game press conferences or for berating their players in practice or a game. 

It's important for a leader to be patient. It's important for a leader to be a model of self-control. We've seen what can happen if leaders lose control. I believe self control is one of the most important character traits for a servant leader to have. Without it, he or she is untrustworthy, consistently inconsistent with their emotions, and liable to be unkind, selfish, and mean. It's hard to keep yourself from sin without self-control. It's hard to do things you have to do even if you don't want to do them without self-control. It would've been hard for Jesus to have served and to succumbed to the cross without self-control. Without self-control, God would've long ago destroyed mankind. Remember that He came really close once.

And so I encourage you to try to be more patient and to have more self-control. Make patience and self-control two of your core values. Treasure them and don't abandon them. They will get you far in life if you allow them to.

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Qualities of a Servant Leader

In my last post, Agape Love: An Unconditional Love, I talked about what love is. I said that love is a behavior and not a feeling. And today, I'll be relating agape love to servant leadership.

In his book, The Servant, James C. Hunter compiles a list of qualities every leader should possess. Or should I say, the characters in The Servant work together come up with a list. Take a few minutes and think of some qualities you think a leader should have...

What follows is a list of the qualities Hunter's characters came up with:

  • Honest, trustworthy
  • Good role model
  • Caring
  • Committed
  • Good listener
  • Holds people accountable
  • Treats people with respect
  • Gives people encouragement
  • Positive, enthusiastic attitude
  • Appreciated people

Would you agree with this list? Is anything unnecessarily there, or is anything missing? I personally would say this is exactly what I want a leader to look like. A leader needs all of these qualities to be a good leader. Simply think of a leader who fails to exhibit one or more of these qualities and you'll see my point. A leader who lies all the time isn't a very selfless leader. A leader who's personal lifestyle is immoral isn't a very selfless leader, either. A leader who doesn't care will eventually be fired, so that person isn't very effective either. And so on. 

Now I want to point something else out. In my previous post, we glanced at 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a, the famous "love is patient, love is kind" passage. This is the "love" passage of the Bible. It says, "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails." Now remember what agape love is. It's love that is a behavior, not an emotion or feeling. And if we look at love as a behavior- in other words, as how we act- verses how we feel, it changes everything. 

Hunter also compiled a list of qualities from the "love" passage of the Bible. Again, it was his characters that came up with it, but they essentially represent Hunter's beliefs.

  • Patience
  • Kindness
  • Humility
  • Respectfulness
  • Selflessness
  • Forgiveness
  • Honesty
  • Commitment
Does it strike you how similar these two lists are? One list pertains to a list of leadership qualities; the other, to the qualities of love. Isn't that remarkable? Is it possible then that leadership and love go hand-in-hand? Is it possible that a leader must love those under his care? Yes and yes. If you want to be a servant leader, if you want to be a mentor leader, if you want to be a leader, you have to love. You have to have agape love for your employees, players, family members, etc. 

In the upcoming days, I plan on looking at each quality individually. Hunter looks at each quality in The Servant and I'll simply pass the information along to you (and of course, add my own two cents). My servant leadership journey has been really exciting so far as I've learned all kinds of new things and I know there's even more out there to discover. I'm having a lot of fun reading these books about servant leadership and passing along what I've learned to you. Because I'm beginning to post more often and because more and more of my friends are starting to read my blog, I've decided to post a new post each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. So I'll be posting every other day and I'll have weekend off. I'm doing this so my readers will know when to look for new posts and so I can be consistent with my posting. So be sure to check back Wednesday for my next post!