A Jamaican Remembers Billy Graham

Billy Graham


By now you have heard the sad news that the Rev. Billy Graham died Wednesday at the age of 99.

Surely, he was the greatest evangelist of the 20th century. Respected by sinner and saint alike, Billy Graham preached on or across every continent in the world. He preached before kings and queens, rich and poor. He was a personal advisor to Presidents from Harry Truman to Barack Obama. No wonder they called him America’s pastor.

As a young boy growing up in Jamaica, such deep, vivid memories were inspired by his rapid-fire, earnest preaching, accompanied by sweet memories of George Beverly Shea singing “How Great Thou Art” on Graham’s long-running radio program, The Hour of Decision.

Many of my peers back home in Jamaica wanted to preach like him. But there is only one Billy Graham. As far as I can tell, Graham never preached in Jamaica–he may have sent his associates to preach–but he never held his big tent meetings in Jamaica or the West Indies for that matter. What I do know is that he regularly visited the home of Johnny Cash in Jamaica. The Cashes even dubbed one of the rooms in their house “the Billy Graham room,” as it had an extra-long bed to fit Graham’s tall frame.

As I think about the life of this servant of God, I realize that four important qualities from his life still influence me to this day:

  1. His faith in the power of the Holy Spirit to use imperfect people to preach the gospel.
  2. His faith in the truth of God’s word to transform the human heart.
  3. His willingness to endure criticism and rejection for the sake of Christ.
  4. His passion for seeing lost humanity come to faith in Jesus Christ.

Despite all the accolades now pouring in from around the world, the Rev. Billy Graham was just a mere mortal that God raised up for a given time. His work is ended, he is with the Lord, and his reward awaits.

Of course, no one person can bring in the Kingdom. We need faithful men and women in every generation who will embrace and embody those four important qualities that so deeply marked this servant of God.

During last week’s staff meeting, one of our staff leaders shared a beautiful prayer-poem that illustrates the limitations facing every servant of God:

A Future Not Our Own

It helps now and then to step back and take a long view.

The Kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,

it is beyond our vision.

We accomplish in our lifetime only a fraction

of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.

Nothing we do is complete, which is another way of

saying that the kingdom always lies beyond us.

No statement says all that could be said.

No prayer fully expresses our faith. No confession

brings perfection, no pastoral visit brings wholeness.

No program accomplishes the Church’s mission.

No set of goals and objectives include everything.

This is what we are about. We plant the seeds that one

day will grow. We water the seeds already planted

knowing that they hold future promise.

We lay foundations that will need further development.

We provide yeast that produces effects

far beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of

liberation in realizing this.

This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.

It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning,

a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s

grace to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results, but that is the

difference between the master builder and the worker.

We are workers, not master builders, ministers, not

messiahs. We are prophets of a future not our own.

 (This prayer was composed by Bishop Ken Untener of Saginaw, drafted for a homily by Cardinal John Dearden in November, 1979.)

Well done, good and faithful servant. Rest In peace, Dr. Graham.

Why Lent is more than a dietary shift.


Every year during Lent as far back as I can remember, I bristled at the notion of giving up some kind of food. 

Because Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day fall on the same day, Catholic Bishops are urging their faithful to give up steaks and chocolate during the forty days of Lent. Supposedly, this kind of abstinence helps identify with Jesus’ suffering during the last week of his life.

Who am I to quibble with the Bishops of the church? I am a nobody. But I will quibble just a bit. I would ask that we go a bit deeper and instead of saying no to certain foods, focus our Lenten journey on honesty with Christ. 

Jesus desires in Luke 5– truth and honesty in the inner being(Psalm 51:6). 

But in Luke 5, only a few people seem concerned with honesty:

Peter: Luke 5:8- but when Simon Peter saw it (the large catch of fish), he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord. Peter is honest about the moral and spiritual condition of his life. His anguished plea reminds us of Isaiah’s anguished plea in (Is 6:5) where he said,  “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”” Now, that is brutal honesty.

The leper: Luke 5:12- Once, when he was in one of the cities, there was a man covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he bowed with his face to the ground and begged him, “Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean.” This was more than a cry for physical healing. This was a cry for community. To have leprosy was to be an outcast from family, temple, synagogue, friends, work, life (click here for more details). To be healed and cleansed is to be part of a community. He was brutally honest with Jesus. “I need your help, and if you are willing, please help me, I am sick, and I am lonely.”

The crowds:- Jesus asked the leper, “now that you are healed, please go show yourself to the priest so that he can confirm your healing and please don’t tell anyone what I did for you.”

Of course, he didn’t. It is hard to keep good news from bursting out. Instead, Luke records,
“But now, even more, the report about him went abroad, and great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities.” Luke 5:15

Levi and his tax collecting friends:- “After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth. And he said to him, “Follow me.” And leaving everything, he rose and followed him.” ‭‭Luke‬ ‭5:27-28‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Dishonest people
Luke presents a contrast between the common, everyday people of Jesus’s day and the cultured, religious crowd. They weren’t honest with Jesus. For Luke, the religious community were onlookers. They knew that Jesus was unique. To them, he was a spectacle to behold, a sideshow that you didn’t want to miss. But nothing deeper than that. They heard him teach, they saw him heal people but, stood at an objective distance, the way scientists try to observe and test their hypotheses. And we know this to be true based on the following observations:

1. After four friends of a crippled man went literally above and beyond to help their friend to Jesus, and after Jesus forgave the man of his sins, here’s their reaction:

Vss. 21-22: Then the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, “Who is this who is speaking blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” When Jesus perceived their questionings, he answered them, “Why do you raise such questions in your hearts?

For them, Jesus was not a person to worship and solicit help, but a theological challenge to be shamed and dismissed. That’s not honesty in the inner being.

2. The most glaring example is that of Levi who left everything to follow Jesus. Tax collectors made a good living. The money earned fleecing their victims was worth the cultural rejection.  The same thing with fishermen who made a better-than-average average income (even if they had had a bad night-Luke 5:5). Leaving these jobs was an act of radical commitment that carried significant economic repercussions.

Levi did not give up chocolate and steaks to follow him, he left everything. Instead of joining the party and celebrating Levi’s turning away from the shameful, corrupt, tax collecting shakedown of his people, the religious leaders stood at a distance and sneered. The Pharisees and their scribes were complaining to his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners (Luke 5;30)?” The implication being, we don’t do that, ergo, we are holy, and our lives are intact. It’s dishonest to separate oneself from other people or position oneself above and beyond other people.

It’s not surprising that Luke 15:1 says: “Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him.” ‭‭Is it even possible to draw near to Jesus without being honest with him?

What would honesty with Jesus look like?

This Ash Wednesday, Christ, the doctor of the soul, who sees us from the inside, asks us to be honest about the state of our lives.

Be honest about your need for prayer

The need for less religion and more empathy for others. Let’s be honest that we have too much religion and not enough empathy for others. You have heard of the Christians who go into restaurants after church on Sundays, eat the big meal, and then leave tracts telling people to come to Jesus instead of leaving that 20 or 25% tip. Can tracts buy baby formula, diapers and keep the heat on? Too much religion and not enough love for people. 

The need for repentance. If Jesus walked up to your front door, would you try to stall while you run and hide your idols?

The need for spiritual maturity: Are we growing up? Are we changing? Are we having victory over certain besetting habits? Are we growing in our understanding of the gospel that saves us? Or are we still the same year after year?

The need for a more Christ Like attitude. Can we be honest about our attitude? Sarcastic, critical, mean-spirited racist, sexist, moody, holding a grudge for being slighted or overlooked? Always concerned about what people think about us, instead of resting in what Christ says about us? Are we willing to step out of ourselves and serve others? The religious leaders simply could not see that Jesus was about prayer, healing and touching lepers, healing the cripple, Jesus was all about people.

With all respects to the Bishops, please don’t give up steak and chocolate this Lent. This is not a dietary shift. Give up your life and like Peter, and the common people of Jesus’ day, be honest for a change. That’s the beginning of a transformed life.

Why some people love Jesus, but not the church in its present form.


The young man sat down in my office and wasted no time unloading his pain: “For years, I swore I would never get mixed up with religion until I started coming to your services. I now know that Christianity is about Jesus–his life, death, and resurrection.”

He was on a roll–“I am struck by his willingness to love people like me, with all my struggles and addictions. I love his power to touch lepers, spend time with women used up and abused by powerful men. I love how he challenged the powerful and corrupt religious leaders. Most of all, I love his directness with his disciples. He was patient with them, but still called them to a higher vision for their lives.”

As I listened to this passionate young student, I could tell he was reading his Bible with care and insight, and it was resetting the priorities in his life.

But what he said next made me sad. “Pastor, I love Jesus. This is not some empty religious trip for me. Jesus is alive in my daily experiences. But when I come to the church, I don’t see the passion and excitement that I read about in the early church. When I look at the programs and projects of the church, I know that there is some outreach to the community, but it seems like most of what we do is focused on us.”

I finally asked him what he thought was missing.

“If Jesus is alive what are we doing to bring healing and hope to the hurting people of our community? When I come to the prayer meetings, I don’t see many people present first of all, and then I wonder, what do we believe about prayer? Why do we struggle to give and attend to the worship of Jesus both in the church and outside of the church?”

And then he said these words I will never forget: “I love Jesus, but I don’t like the church. I see a disconnect between the words we sing and preach about Jesus. and how we demonstrate his powerful, resurrected life through each of us.”

Words from a naive, emotional youth? Maybe. But don’t dismiss what the student is saying. In fact, meet with some of the students in your church and ask them, is our church helping you become a faithful follower of Jesus? And then be prepared to listen, learn, pray and change.

“The unfortunate reality,” says Kara Powell, author of Growing Young: Six Essential Strategies to Help Young People Discover and Love your Church,  “is that most churches are not growing, and they aren’t getting any younger (p.15).” Check out Seth Stewart’s helpful summary of the book here.

So what’s the resolution with this college student? None. There are no easy answers, I told him. The church, the people of God, from the times of the Exodus, through exile, to the post-resurrection community until now has been a messy community. There has never been a moment in time when the Church lived in perfect obedience to Christ. But there has never been a moment when Christ left his Church.

So this is the resolution: I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ (Philippian 1:6). 

Christ in us, the hope of glory, that is the ultimate resolution. He started a good, redemptive work in His Church and he won’t quit until he returns. My young college friend continues to worship and serve in our church because he is learning to embrace and love our church the way Jesus embraces and loves His church. The sign of a maturing Christian is one who loves Jesus and loves the people (however imperfect they may be) that Jesus loves.


Slow Reading For Lasting Change


At the start of this year, I made a shocking confession to God — I was tired of reading the Bible the way I had always read it.

Now, for a preacher, I know that sounds borderline blasphemous, but let me explain. For more years than I can count, one of my regular spiritual practices has involved starting my reading with Genesis in January and ending in December with Revelation.

Admittedly, reading through the Bible is not easy. For one thing, the thought occurs that, yes, I am reading through the Bible, but how is the Bible reading me?  I am getting into the Scriptures, but are the Scriptures getting into my life? Am I just better informed, or am I becoming a better person because of my reading through the Bible?

And then there are certain books during my year-long quest that I have dreaded reading through: Leviticus, with its blood and sacrifices; the two books of Chronicles, with all the mind-numbing lists; Isaiah, formidable in its 66 stentorian chapters; Song of Solomon, and all its erotic poetry; and the minor prophets, filled with God’s scary denunciation of sinful nations. People tell me these are some of the books that hinder them from reading all the way through to Revelation.

This year, I am trying something different: I am spending a month in each book of the Bible — or that’s what I hope to do. So I spent the month of January reading through Genesis five different times, and I encountered God in ways that led me to worship. Pastors may lead worship but don’t always worship!

In February, I am reading Exodus, with its 40 chapters, at least six times.

This slow reading of Scripture is touching my mind and emotions in some weird ways. For example, as I read these words in Exodus 33:7,11 — Now Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, far off from the camp; he called it the tent of meeting. And everyone who sought the Lord would go out to the tent of meeting, which was outside the camp. Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friendI couldn’t read these words without weeping.

I am not weeping with sorrow but with delight that God loves us and wants us to walk and talk with him. Moses and the people had a place where they would meet with God. I long for that level of friendship with God.

Why am I doing this? Not for sermon fodder. Nor I am not reading Scripture to fill my mind with factoids. I am reading through Scripture because I need God. I want to know God. I am lost without God’s wisdom in my life. Well before I became a pastor, I was (and still am today) a disciple of Jesus Christ. I read and ponder these ancient words because that’s what disciples do.

May the Lord stir up within His Church such deep cravings for Scripture. And may his words satisfy our restless souls and grant us peace.

If you are reading the Bible in 2018, how is God’s Word speaking into your life?

How God Sees Haitians and Africans

Haitian Child.jpg

The words of President Trump regarding Haitians and Africans wounded me. His intemperate words wounded millions of people around the world.

I woke up a couple days ago with a vivid picture of Revelation 7:9-10 and I felt better.

After this, I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice, saying,

“Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

Haitians and Africans will be standing before the throne and before the Lamb. The praises of God will flow effortlessly from their lips.

The president is wrong. His eyes are blind. What he sees are people who do not measure up to his standard.

God does not see people and relate to people by Mr. Trump’s standards. God loves Haitians, Africans, Jamaicans, Asians, Caucasians and every tribe, nation, and language on earth.

So I forgive the president, just as Jesus has forgiven me a million times for my own spiritual blindness.

Wally and Eleanor Turnbull, are veteran missionaries serving in Haiti. They collected and translated the simple but powerful prayers of the Christians who live in the Haitian mountains. Here are four prayers focusing on the power of God’s Word in our lives.

Our Great Physician,
Your word is like alcohol.
When poured on an infected wound, it burns and stings,
but only then can it kill germs.
If it doesn’t burn, it doesn’t do any good.

We are all hungry baby birds this morning.
Our heart-mouths are gaping wide, waiting for you to fill us.

A cold wind seems to have chilled us.
Wrap us in the blanket of your Word and warm us up.

We find your Word like cabbage.
As we pull down the leaves, we get closer to the heart.
And as we get closer to the heart, it is sweeter.

Haitians and Africans have much to teach us about God.

The Most Important Thing You Can Do For Your Marriage.

Photo by Gus Moretta on UnsplashHope

I am going to get right to the point. I believe that the most important thing you can do for your marriage is to keep hope alive. How to do that is what I want to share with you.

When Judith and I wrote the fictional book, 5 Disciplines of a Growing Marriage, this was the message we wanted to communicate.

The couple, Mark and Lisa, had many problems–nothing unusual that you and I don’t deal with. Their marriage was on the verge of imploding, not because of the problems, but because in the course of dealing with their problems, they lost all hope. 

It is not the problems that make marriage intolerable. Marriage becomes intolerable when couples lack tools to deal with their problems.

If you read the book, you will notice that it doesn’t end with, and they lived happily ever after, that only happens in a fairytale world. In the real world, a joy-filled marriage confronts daily problems from a perspective of hope. The 5 Disciplines of a Growing Marriage ends on a note of hope. Mark and Lisa will still be afflicted with problems, but they will face their problems with hope instead of despair.

What do I mean by hope? Hope is the irrepressible conviction that tomorrow will be better than today.

Hope has an object.

Surprisingly, the object is not love or your partner. Hope is rooted in the presence and promises of God. Almighty God promises, “I will never leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5).” Hope is the conviction that while the problems of marriage may overwhelm, they will never, and can never eclipse God. So God is our helper!

What we have observed is that joy-filled couples do not depend on themselves. Don’t get me wrong, they take responsibility for their actions and their immature behavior, but they don’t believe the lie that they possess all the resources and answers to their problems. These resilient couples have faith in God to sustain them in their problems. So they are not afraid to seek help from God and others.

Hope grows through trial and error.

If we were to graph the trajectory of our marriage, it would not be a straight line up and to the right. The growth lines of our marriage for the past 34 years would look like the stock market, many highs and lows. So how does that provide hope? Suffering, failure, and hardship produce endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us (Romans 5:3-5).

Whenever Judith and I hit tough spots in our life together, we remind ourselves that we have been in this boat before. We don’t panic. We don’t throw in the white towel. We endure the hardship, knowing that God has given us everything we need for life and godliness.

Hope feeds commitment.

This makes sense. If I believe that God is with me and will never forsake me, and if I believe that God uses all of my victories and failures shape me into the image of Christ, then I will remain filled with hope for each day. This sense of daily hope sustains our commitment to our marital vows.

Judith and I celebrated thirty-four years of marriage in 2017. Our love for each other continues to grow in the face of every imaginable problem that two people could face.

  • What keeps us going is the conviction that God knows us and loves us.
  • Christ died and rose from the dead. His resurrection power is with us.
  • We have the wisdom of God through the word of God to guide us.
  • Those who are with us are greater than those who are against us.
  • God does not keep a record of my sins and failures. I am forgiven!

I would love to hear your thoughts: What keeps you hopeful in your marriage?




The Miracle of Christmas

Photo by Walter Chávez on Unsplash

As we prepare for Christmas amidst the cacophony of Christmas parties, decorations, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, all in the name of “getting ready for the holidays,’ let’s not forget the simple, powerful story of a poor young woman and her example of radical faith and obedience to God.

In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.

And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” 

But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.

The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom, there will be no end.”

Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” 

The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren.

For nothing will be impossible with God.”

Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her. Luke 1:26-38

The real message of Christmas
The message of Christianity is not a message of humanity’s ability to find God, or reach God. The message of Christianity is that God finds us. God found Mary. God’s initiative, not ours.

Prayer: God in heaven, once again I’m struck with your awesome power today. Not only did you create all things, but you sustain them right up to the present moment. My next breath and next heartbeat depend on you. Not only that, my most difficult problems disappear when you act. Nothing is impossible with you. May I live today with that belief firmly in mind. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Why we make excuses and what to do about them

Hiking near the mountains of desert canyons in UtahPhoto by Holly Mandarich on Unsplash

So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt (Exodus 2:10).

As much as Moses was a great leader, he was far from a perfect leader. He did something many of us do when intimidated by a task–make excuses. Why do we make excuses?

We make excuses…

  1. To avoid being responsible for the task.
  2. To delay and procrastinate.
  3. To mask the growing fear inside of us
  4. To save ourselves from the perceived pain and shame of failure. 

It is possible these were some of the reasons Moses offered excuses to God. He did not feel adequate. The magnitude of the task seemed greater than his abilities. Have you ever felt that way?

The truth is, no one is ever adequate for the task of leading God’s people. Adequacy for leadership comes through time spent in God’s presence and through a process of trial and error. So it is understandable at the outset that Moses would question his ability to lead–hence his excuses.

I know this sounds weird, but it is a good thing to lose confidence in one’s abilities but gain confidence in God’s ability to work through us.

The messages of our culture invite us to think positive, invoke powerful mantras, “I am somebody! I am strong. I am a leader. I am smart, creative, today is the best day of my life,” and other such banal platitudes. Unfortunately, such practices turn the spotlight on the leader and fail to recognize the frailty inherent in every leader. Moses had no mantras that day. He was halting, uncertain and filled with excuses. What were some of his excuses?

First Excuse: “No one will believe me that you and I met in the desert.” Then Moses answered, “But behold, they will not believe me or listen to my voice, for they will say, ‘The LORD did not appear to you.” (Exodus 4:1 ESV)

Second Excuse: Lord, remember that I have a speech impediment. I no longer speak with any fluency. Moses said to the LORD, “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.”
(Exodus 4:10 ESV)

Third excuse: I am busy, send someone else. But he said, “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.” (Exodus 4:13 ESV)

What to do
Feelings of inadequacy are natural. 
The burning bush encounter with God is an important event for fear-filled Moses. For Moses, the feelings would dissipate as he grew stronger through intimate times with God. From this day forward, Moses would walk with God and filter every challenge, every victory and every decision through his friendship with God.

Excuses lose their power over us when we remember this truth:

If God calls us to a task, he will empower us to do the task.

What are some of the common excuses you tend to make?

Why leaders need transcendent moments



Do you ever wonder why Jesus’ favorite recreational activity was to go either to a deserted place or to the mountains?

Leaders need times of solitude. We need transcendent moments to remind us that our problems and challenges are not bigger than God.

This truth came home to me a few years ago. Former members of our church invited our family to spend a day at their home located near a breathtaking lake.

I was in the middle of a very stressful time in the church—many meetings, staff conflicts, budget deficits, personal pressures.

My wife was convinced we should go, but I wanted to stay home and have my private pity party.

She pushed. We accepted the invitation and traveled the fifty-five miles to see our friends. Was I glad I took their offer!

Their spacious home was situated on close to an acre of land next to a large lake. Entering the area where they lived was like stepping into a soundproof zone.

We no longer heard the white noise of the highway; all we heard were birds singing to their Maker, the gentle wind pushing and pulling the leaves on the trees.

After lunch, our hosts took us down to the lake and showed us how to kayak. I had never done this before, but after a few missteps, I began to understand the rhythm of kayaking. I learned how to efficiently move my paddle from side to side; moving forward, backward, turning.

What initially felt like a chore quickly became delight. I confidently pushed out into the middle of the lake, and it was only when I was in the middle of the lake that I realized the enormity of this body of water.

Way back on shore I could see my family, they were waving and calling out to me, but I was so far from them I could not hear a single word. And then I stopped rowing and quietly sat in the middle of the lake.

This is a moment I will never forget. In the middle of the vast lake, I felt small, insignificant, and my worries seemed small. I realized at that moment my problems, my concerns, fears, and desires were as nothing in the middle of this enormous body of water.

My thoughts turned to Christ and his power to walk on water; his authority to speak to the wind and the waves roiling and threatening his disciples on the Sea of Galilee. His fearful disciples were convinced death was imminent, so they shook him from his peaceful sleep.

Lord, do you not care that we perish? Jesus first said to them? Why are you afraid? O you of little faith. Then he stood up and spoke to the wind and the waves and it became still. (See Matthew 8: 23-27)

Thankfully, I was not in a literal storm that day. The lake was like a plate of glass except for a few slight undulating waves. But my inner life was in turmoil, and I knew at that moment Christ was not just with me, and that everything would be fine, but Christ was greater than all the storms I was facing and I did not need to be captured by fear.

At that moment my giant sized challenges were eclipsed by the magnitude of the lake. The chaos of my inner life was recalibrated from feverish, fretful pursuits, to peace, stillness, rest, faith, and renewal in the presence and power of God.

I hope you have a place where you go and experience God. I hope you have a place where you can resize your challenges before the greatness of God. Failure to find these transcendent moments leave us thinking it’s all up to us. It never is.

Where do you go to reset your inner life?

Dead Leader Walking


A costly error

I recently read some of the saddest words ever said about a leader:

So Saul died for his unfaithfulness; he was unfaithful to the Lord in that he did not keep the command of the Lord; moreover, he had consulted a medium, seeking guidance, and did not seek guidance from the Lord. Therefore the Lord put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David, son of Jesse. (1 Chronicles 10:13-14 NRSV).

What do I find so disturbing about these words? Not that Saul died (this is tragic), or the way he died, but that he did not seek guidance from the Lord.

Saul was anointed and appointed by God. He had all the right leadership tools, except one: humility in seeking the Lord with all his heart.

As his leadership started unraveling, he began losing confidence and broad support from his trusted leaders and the people of Israel.

He became a “dead leader” walking–willing to do anything to solve his problems. Anything but seek the Lord.

Instead, he went to a medium and in desperation, tried contacting the spirit of Samuel.

Like a dehydrated person in a desert craving a drop of water, Saul was yearning for wisdom, direction, and help. The weight of leadership was crushing him. If you are a leader, you know what this feels like. 

Jealousy toward David, his son-in-law, was slowly building a prison in his heart and this was when he took a foolish shortcut, and it cost him everything.

Leaders, remember that nothing of eternal significance happens apart from God.

Jesus was unequivocal when he said, “Apart from me you can do nothing (John 15:5). The task of leading an organization is challenging.

Leaders who have nothing to rely on but their degrees, their raw, brute strength to carry the load, will inevitably hit a wall and fall apart. They will not endure over the long haul that is often required of those who lead. Most of all, they will not finish well.

Source of the problem
Many leaders struggle in their prayer lives. They trade the short term comfort of immediate results for the longterm gain of seeking God’s best. Prayerless leaders are more common than we care to admit because prayer is slow, humbling, hard work. 

Those who pray, feel like it is a waste of time. Like Smeagol, in Lord of the Rings– the creature with the obsession for the shiny ring–many leaders are smitten with shiny leadership tools that they think will spur growth within their organization, their church, motivate people, and raise vast sums of money. Leaders want results. I get that!

I am not trying to dismiss leadership resources. I am saying that we must wisely choose our tools. Speaking through Jeremiah, the Lord said, “Stand at the crossroads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way lies; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.” (Jeremiah 6: 16).

Come back to the ancient crossroads. Seek for the ancient paths–spiritual leadership that is centered on devotion to God. And in doing this, leaders will discover that God’s power is greater than anything they can do in their strength and that the wisdom of God and the plans of God are often revealed through prayer.


Malcolm Gladwell (Outliers: The Story of Success) points out that virtually every person who has achieved success has done so, not only because of their talent, intelligence and hard work, but also because of an incredible set of circumstances that has given them advantages others have not enjoyed. Most studies on the traits of effective leadership include the attribute of humility—from Kouzes and Posner to Jim Collins; from Lencioni to Covey to Drucker. All of them recognize what Einstein taught: we are but a speck in an unfathomably large universe. Every leader who seeks a legacy of effectiveness realizes that he or she stands on the shoulders of someone else. They know that their abilities, opportunities and even their very breath come from the hand of God. William Loritts (Leadership as an Identity: The Four Traits of Those Who Wield Lasting Influence) writes, “For a Christian leader, brokenness is a dear friend, and pride is the enemy.” Leaders who would be grateful, humble and broken must begin on their knees, thanking God for his grace and mercy in their lives. (From Do Leaders Really Need To Pray?: The Role of Prayer in Leadership)

What are you doing to maintain spiritual vibrancy in your leadership?