Back from Guam: Why Doors Can Be Dangerous Things

As I’ve said elsewhere, “It is a dangerous business going out your front door.” (J. R. R. Tolkien) My journey to Guam was no different. What I found was more doors. And doors are always uncontrollable things.

Especially when God opens them.

First the boring travel news. Thanks to a chronic cold that I’ve been unable to shake, I didn’t get any sleep the night before I left. Twenty-four hours and three sleepless flights later, I arrived in Guam having been awake for the last 48 hours. (I did watch four movies that I otherwise never would have watched. And, for the record, Avatar is way over-rated.)

My theory is that God was just making it easy for me to adjust to the new time by being able to go to sleep quickly. It took a day or two, but my internal clock did adjust to the 14-hour time difference.

Though I must confess it was strange to be in tomorrow while my family was still in today — or was it yesterday?

My first full day in Guam, I connected with Frank and Lynda Hester — a wonderful, God-ordained match to complete the Equip Leadership team in Guam. Their decades of Coast Guard instruction experience combined with current church leadership efforts brought a terrific perspective to the instruction. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know them and hear of their own walk of faith into the unknown. Seems to be happening a lot these days. Or maybe I’m just noticing it more now.

We visited St. Paul’s church which hosted the Equip event on the night of their very busy Fall Festival. One thing is sure, kids are kids no matter where you go.

We got to meet Bishops John and Eva Pineda, professional faith walkers with a deep-rooted Kingdom legacy in Guam and beyond.

L-R: Myself, Bishop John Pineda, Lynda and Frank Hester

 

Bishop Eva Pineda -- a ball of energy for Christ -- teaching children the Gospel.

We met so many awesome people and began what promise to be many rewarding Kingdom friendships including with Pastors Paul and Albert and others. Pastor Lenny and Mario Josef looked out for us the whole time. Mario gave us a bonus tour of the island. We ate a lot of excellent food — I’m told that eating good food is normal on Guam.

The leadership training exceeded all expectations. At dinner the night before — another excellent dinner with more excellent new friends — it looked as if there might be 100 in attendance. By the time things began Friday, we had more than 220 in attendance for training. The next day went continued well as we really dived into  leadership specifics. Spent a session with pastors and church representatives from around the island and concluded with an encouraging Q & A with the small group leaders of St. Paul’s Church.

Empty seats inthe gym before the conference. They filled up fast.

A great start, but only a start. I’m already making plans to extend my ministry reach to Guam churches and schools next trip. We plan now to expand as doors have opened to other countries around the Pacific Rim as God leads to support Christian schools and other ministries there.  And my wife will be going next time so that we can continue to approach His work as a family as much as possible.

We need support to do it. Click here to make a tax-deductible donation through the Center for Cultural Leadership. Just click on the “Donate” button at the bottom of that page. If you can drop me a quick e-mial to let me know for record-keeping, that would be great. If not, God will work it out.

If you would have told me a year ago that I would be planning to spend a good chunk of time over the next many years on the other side of the world building God’s Kingdom, I would have politely smiled and concluded the conversation as quickly as possible. But it’s like Mark Batterson says in The Circle Maker: Praying Circles Around Your Biggest Dreams and Greatest Fears, “You can’t never always sometimes tell.”

God’s like that. I wonder where He might be calling you. If you’ll let him. One thing is sure, if you keep your hand open, you never know where you might end up.

It seems to me that we often reject the good that God offers us because, at the moment, we expected some other good. ~ C.S. Lewis
Where do you sense God tugging at your heart to step out of your comfort zone? Have you had a missions experiences overseas? Share your story or thoughts with a comment. 
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Update from Guam — with Pictures!

I fail to see how one can spend much time in Guam and not see the fingerprints of God all over this island. A few pictures should suffice to make my point.

 

I’ve spent time getting to know just a few of the wonderful people here, fellow servants on Kingdom journeys of their own. A lot of Faith Walkers here, people who have stepped out without knowing where God was taking them, so I feel pretty comfortable.

We did some sight-seeing with our new friend Mario. First stop was to Two Lover’s Point where two Romeo and Juliet types leaped to their death down this hole.

Here is the picturesque view over  Tumon Bay from that lofty perch:

We stopped at a National Park commemorating the Battle for Guam in WWII. I got a picture of the sign to fulfill our family tradition.

The church in the distance below is where Magellan supposedly came ashore a long, long, time ago.

 

And here is my favorite Veggie Tales moment. A water buffalo. There are a lot of them around here. Seriously.

This is the view from my thinking spot where I have been reading Circle Maker by Mark Batterson. Superb book. Life-transforming.

If you think of it, please pray for the leadership training sessions starting in a few hours. We are 14 hours ahead of EST so you do the math. I’m sure God will honor your prayers regardless of when the reminder hits you.

The flight home will be a long one again, but the energy from this island and what God is doing here should sustain me.

Thanks for your prayers and support.

Why Some People Almost Always Get Prayer Requests Answered

I know the feeling. You pray to God for something — likely a very good thing — and it just doesn’t seem to get answered. Meanwhile, it seems that some people almost always get their prayer requests answered. What’s up with that?

photo: asenat29

Maybe it’s because you’re not investing the time and energy into your prayer to see How to Get the Greatest Return on Your Investment.

Maybe it’s something more.

Lately, I’ve been able to tell some really cool stories of how God has answered our specific prayer requests as we continue this walk of faith into ministry. You know, the kind where we put our request out there and God comes through — just at the eleventh hour — with a phone call or other unexpected answer.  The kind of requests that when we pray we’re wondering if we really should be so demanding of our heavenly Father. It almost feels as if our prayer is, well, rude.

Getting Rude with God

But maybe it needs to be. Not rude, necessarily, but at least stubborn, persistent, and — yes — demanding of the promises of God.

The Bible is full of such advice for Christians to be, as the classic saints have called it, importune in our requests to see them answered. Consider this parable from Jesus Himself:

And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them?

The widow received her answer because she was rude, by our standards. She persisted in her righteous request until her prayer got answered. And that’s what Jesus told us we should do and not “lose heart.” Like Jacob, who wrestled with God, refusing to let go until he got the blessing, we must grapple with His divine promises. E.M. Bounds says our approach should be the same as Jacob’s:

Prayer in its highest form and grandest success assumes the attitude of a wrestler with God. It is the contest, thrill, and victory of faith; a victory not secured from an enemy, but from Him who tries our faith that he may enlarge it; that tests our strength to make it stronger. [emphasis mine]

Three Tips to Get Your Prayer Requests Answered

Allow me to share three simple keys that I have discovered — not that I have mastered these. I offer them as a fellow student in God’s school of prayer. But I think they have a lot to do with why some people almost always get their prayer requests answered:

  1. You have to ask. Duh. “You have not because you ask not.” “Ask and it will be given.” We’ve heard it all before, but that doesn’t mean we’re actually taking the time to ask for specific answers to specific requests. Only you know if you do. Make time to ask. If not we end up like the husband who can’t figure out why his wife hasn’t prepared dinner at 6 PM like he forgot to ask her to do. Not that I’ve done that, of course. I’m just using a bizarre, imaginary example.
  2. You have to believe that God will answer. “Let him ask in faith, with no doubting… and it will be given him.” “Whatever is not of faith is sin.” Believing — deep within the core of your being — is what faith is all about. And it’s not just belief that He can, but that He will. [See my post Is What You're Attempting for God Too Big to Fail? ] If you want a soul check on this point, ask if you are acting as if God is going to answer or are you focusing on putting contingency plans in place for when he doesn’t answer your prayer requests?
  3. You have to persist in your asking. We are to pray always and not lose heart. Why do some seem to always get their prayer requests answered? They are always praying. Again. And again. It’s not that they drop their prayer package on the doorstep, ring the bell, and run for the woods. They camp out on the heavenly porch, chain themselves to the knob, and beat endlessly upon the door — until God answers their prayer requests.

Whether we like it or not asking is the rule of the Kingdom. “Ask, and you shall receive.” It is a rule that never will be altered in anybody’s case. Our Lord Jesus Christ is the elder brother of the family, but God has not relaxed the rule for Him…. If the royal and divine Son of God cannot be exempted from the rule of asking that He may have, you and I cannot expect the rule to be relaxed in our favor. ~ C.H. Spurgeon

Where does that leave you? Rudely pounding on God’s door or running away embarrassed into the woods? Or is that you I see relaxing under the tree in heaven’s front yard?

What tips on persistent prayer have I missed? What stories do you have of answers to your own ”importune” prayer? Leave a comment to help us all live with abundant faith.

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An Excellent and Inspiring Read! Lifted by Angels by Joel J Miller

Just finished a superb book by my friend Joel J. Miller that will inspire and challenge your faith. As I say in my review at Patheos, “It’s not just a book. It’s an experience.”

Check it out. Grab a copy today. You won’t regret it.

Center for Cultural Leadership: Announcing a New Partnership

I am pleased to announce a new partnership — built on an old foundation – in my personal mission to equip Christians to think, live, and lead with abundant faith.

It is a privilege to join the talented, compassionate, and intellectually gifted team of cultural leaders at the Center for Cultural Leadership, a non-profit organization dedicated to transforming Christians to transform cultures. I join the team in the dual role of Junior Scholar of Cultural Theology and Director of Development.

The new partnership builds on an old relational foundation because it reunites me with the Founder and President of CCL, my former teacher, pastor, mentor, friend, and renowned Biblical and cultural scholar, P. Andrew Sandlin.

Relational Impact

It was he who first exposed me to the value of deep-thinking, cogent writing, and the need to stretch our minds in order to grow. He challenged me with the works of Francis Schaeffer as young teen. I devoured them and subsequently spent a few of my Friday nights at his place talking about faith and culture and getting acquainted with the historical roots of Christianity. (Not exactly the normal teenage pastimes, I know.)

Perhaps more than any other, he cultivated my innate desire to question all of reality and connect it to the why at the core of everything — God.

Seeking Synergy

One reason I chose to partner with the CCL team is that nothing worth doing in life can be done alone. Most readers already know I’m a big fan of thinking win-win and seeking synergy. I hope to do just that by creating a win for CCL by continuing to write, speak, and create resources to help Christians think, live, and lead with abundant faith. My existing partnership with Equip Leadership and my upcoming mission to Guam coincides neatly with this same vision.

As the new Director of Development, I’m also looking forward to expanding the platform from which we can together transform Christians to transform culture, one thought at a time, one person at a time, one family, one leader, one organization, and one culture at a time.

Going Forward

This expanded opportunity is an exciting one, but entirely support-driven. Your prayers are still vitally needed on this walk of faith as are financial resources to expand this Kingdom work. You can make a secure, fully tax-deductible donation to support my efforts. Just click here and then on the “Donate” button. Or send an e-mail (Bill@BillintheBlank.com) letting me know you’d like to hear more. Always happy to share and seek greater synergy for Christ.

You can read P. Andrew Sandlin’s blog on culture and theology here. Brian G. Mattson is CCL’s Senior Scholar of Public Theology. His blog is here. CCL’s Richard A. Sandlin, Junior Scholar of Philosophical Theology doesn’t have  a blog yet, most likely because he’s been rather busy teaching summer school at Harvard and working on his doctorate. We’ll work on the blog thing. Talented and godly men all, I encourage you to follow their posts, as well, for Christian thought that will put some meat on your theological bones.

 Let’s move forward together for the cause of Christ to transform culture one heart at a time.

When God Takes You through a Life Tunnel

Life’s a lot like a road trip.

It’s got straight stretches of road on which everything seems pretty normal. You can set the cruise and almost forget you’re driving. It’s got other places that come at you fast, curve in and out, and dip up and down leaving you gripping the wheel with two sets of white knuckles. It has bridges that require faith but reward you with breathtaking views as you cross them.

And then there are the tunnels.

photo: sektorkind

On a recent road trip through the mountains of Virginia, my wife and I entered one such tunnel that took us deep under a mountain. As we cruised along, trying not to get dizzy in the dark as the walls rushed past or to think about the thousands of tons of rock hovering above us, she shared that she loves tunnels.

What’s So Great about Tunnels?

After a raised eyebrow from me, she explained that she really just loved not knowing what she would find on the other side.

I had to admit she had a point. Sometimes it can be sunny on one side and snowing on the other. Sometimes clear roads on one and congested traffic at the other end. Green trees on one and barren brown on the other. One thing is certain: you just can’t know with certainty what’s at the end of the tunnel when you’re still going through the tunnel.

But you can’t stop. Well, you could. But it’s dangerous – both for you and all those around you. And there are no U-turns in tunnels. I have yet to see one with optional turnarounds for those who chicken out halfway through. Once you’re in, the only option is to keep moving forward and trust that the road will eventually emerge one the other side.

Why We Need Life-Tunnels

Life has tunnels, too. Often God takes us through them for the same reasons road builders make them – to get us to someplace faster than we otherwise could have gone. That doesn’t mean we like them. But God uses adversity as a catalyst for greater growth. When we’re in those life-tunnels, we can feel as if we’re in the dark. We can sense the weight of everything that is riding on the outcome. They can test our faith as we wait to see what’s next.

We find ourselves in one of those tunnels now as I shift career gears and head into ministry full-speed. Our pending move to Atlanta is exciting and full of possibilities — yet also unknown and completely unpredictable. Sometimes I want to slam on the brakes, flick on the hazards, and dash for the nearest emergency exit. Knowing my luck, I’d trip on the way and get squashed beneath an 18-wheeler.

Maybe you recognize some of these life-tunnels God takes us through:

  • Early childhood parenting. Man, can it get dark and dizzying at times through those days!
  • Our college years. The uncertainty of what to do next can paralyze us.
  • The first six months of marriage. Right about then we realize why everyone warned that the honeymoon would –a t some point – be over.
  • A prolonged illness with an unclear diagnosis. My baby sister is living that right now as doctors shrug and try to look as if they know what they’re doing.
  • A blended family trying to get up on it’s feet and make something new out of what had been previously broken.

You can likely think of more. Life tunnels are seasons in which we know change is coming, but we can’t really see the end. Not yet.

Why Courage Is Needed

Truth be told, sometimes we want it all to come to a complete stop. Or make a U-turn. But it ain’t happening. Not without a lot of people getting hurt in a traffic pile-up scene worthy of a Jerry Bruckheimer movie.

Tunnels require courage. At the recent Catalyst Atlanta event, I heard Bryan Stevenson say that he did not pray for our comfort or convenience, but for our courage. I don’t know about you, but I could use that prayer.

Sometimes the most courageous thing we can do in life when God takes us through tunnels is to just keep moving. To those outside the tunnel, it doesn’t sound like much to simply stay the course. But the rest of us get it.

Pressing through the fear, pushing through the darkness and uncertainty is the only — and quickest — way out. It’s also the safest. Most wouldn’t think so. But most aren’t driving – or walking – by faith in the One who created the mountain, designed the tunnel, and empowered you to make the trip.

Guess it’s a good thing we are, huh?

What life-tunnels has God brought you through and what wisdom have you learned from them? Share your story with a comment to help us all walk – or drive – with more abundant faith today.

Catalyst Atlanta 2012: A Hot Date for Learning

When was the last time you went on a hot date that was all about learning together?

Thanks to the generosity of some Atlanta friends, both my wife and I were both able to attend the Catalyst Leadership Conference in Atlanta. Those unfamiliar with the conference can explore its history here. Brad Lomenick and the Catalyst team did a phenomenal job with an event that was both entertaining and intensely enlightening.

Our favorite part of Catalyst 2012? An unannounced and nonchalant appearance by Michael W. Smith to lead worship.

Trust me. That's Smitty on the keyboard beneath the giant K at Catalyst 2012.

Add to that an earth-harp. 

A marriage proposal. The Dan Deacon app (you have to see this one).

Connecting with other leaders and bloggers. Sharing Starbucks coffee across the street at Krogers. And cheap chinese food for lunch.

Most unexpected? A surprise appearance by Justin Bieber’s mother.

Oh, and the speakers were excellent. We went to Atlanta praying for God to give us some affirmation about our decision to relocate there ASAP to better position ourselves for ministry. I still think some of my Atlanta friends tipped off Andy Stanley about our faith walk because his opening talk seemed targeted directly at us.

Some of the Andy Stanley’s most memorable lines.

“Info and insight alone do not a leader make.”

Leadership is made by how we respond to:

  • Unexpected opportunity
  • Unavoidable adversity
  • Unquestionable calling

“When you tell your story, you’ll tell about a period of time when you had to wrestle [one of those three things] to the ground.”

“This needs to be a story worth telling!”

“The greatest thing you may do as a leader may not be what you do but who watches you do what you do.”

“It’s better to make a difference than to make a point.”

There was much more, of course, at Catalyst 2012 Atlanta that I hope to share in the coming weeks. But the best part was sharing it with my wife and hearing stuff that made us both laugh at how it seemed exactly what we needed.

Talk about a hot date! Learning AND loving!! Who could ask for anything more? Well, she did mention something about going to  Hawaii, but I don’t really recall what that was all about.

Have you had a hot date like we had at Catalyst 2012 in Atlanta where the two of you learned together? Share your story with a comment here so we can all grow. 

Get a Free Copy of Embracing Obscurity with a Comment at Patheos!

Just an FYI – you  have a shot at a free book just by leaving a comment on my review at Patheos of  Embracing Obscurity: Becoming Nothing in Light of God’s Everything by Anonymous.

Click here read it and to share your thoughts.

And speaking of free books, my new e-book Finding the Curve: The Secret to Explosive Personal Growth is due out soon! It’ll be yours free as a subscriber to this blog. Because I like you. And I’m glad you’re here.

Headed to Catalyst East today in Atlanta thanks to my generous friends at EQUIP Leadership, Inc. and the John Maxwell Co. Going with my lovely wife. Talk about the ultimate leadership date! What woman wouldn’t want — you’re right. I have a wonderful wife.

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts at Patheos.

When His Ways Are Not Our Ways

My last post made a bold statement: “If God doesn’t come through, we’re screwed.” I meant it. In fact, I think we should all always be attempting something that is too big for God to let fail.

But maybe it needs a slight correction.

But Jen, one of the wonderful readers in this faith-walker community, shared these thoughts with a pithy comment:

“But the reality of our situation is this: If God doesn’t come through, we’re screwed.”

Is this really true?  Will you truly be stuck with no place to go and no power to move in any direction?

So much of how we experience life is determined by our thinking about the situations we find ourselves in.  I’ve been extremely poor and happy at the same time.  I’ve been blessed by learning that poverty and failed plans are not the end of the physical or spiritual World.

It might be more true to state: “If God comes through, we’re screwed.”  You will miss the opportunity to experience life in its bare bones form.  You will not need to learn to accept the help you truly need from others in your community.  Your children will not need to truly internalize that their lives are not worthless just because they have no monetary worth – even when they are looked down on by many of those who “have it made” and can wear new clothing and own cell phones.  You won’t experience the true joy of a Thanksgiving feast after months of eating woody green beans for dinner several times a week.  You won’t know deep in your bones that failure is not the end, but can often be a transformational beginning. You won’t know what your safety net feels like until you’ve bounced on it.

Thanks to Jen for her courage to speak up.  I needed the reminder that God’s version of  ”coming through” might look different from my own version of it. If God does provide as I want Him too, will I miss out on a greater blessing? I can pray vigorously and expect confidently yet still keep the understanding that He may have a better plan beyond what I can imagine.

Hear, O my people, and I will warn you — if you would but listen to me…. Open wide your mouth and I will fill it. But my people would not listen to me…. So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts to follow their own devices.   (Ps. 81:8-12)

What do you think of her comment? I think she may be on to something. Share your thoughts with a click here.

Is What You Are Attempting for God Too Big to Fail?

If what you are attempting for God failed, would anyone notice?

photo: saruwine

A few years ago, much political hay was made about the massive bailouts of financial institutions and various members of the auto industry. The argument then was that they were too big to fail. Whether or not we agree with those decisions, that thinking has left me wondering, what am I doing for God that is too big to fail?

Regular readers know of our journey away from the perception of safety and security as a Christian school leader to expand on God’s call to write, speak, and create resources to help Christians think, live, and lead with abundant faith.

It’s ironic, really, that God would call us to extreme steps of faith in order to help others live faith with faith beyond their imagination. But the reality of our situation is this:

If God doesn’t come through, we’re screwed.

Pardon the blunt vernacular. I’ll understand if you unsubscribe now. But that’s real life. And real life requires, not just prefers, real faith.

But God doesn’t call us to be comfortable. He calls us to trust Him so completely that we are unafraid to put ourselves in situations where we will be in trouble if He doesn’t come through. ~ Francis Chan Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God

In a post not long ago, I asked the question, what if God wants me to fail? It’s possible that He might be planning to get greater glory from my failure than from my success. I wonder if Peter asked the same thing as he flung one leg over the side of that heaving boat on the turbulent sea and felt the chilly water first splash his toes. Or if it flashed through his mind as lightning ripped across the roiling Gallilean sky.

In that post, I concluded that we had to be OK with whatever result God chose — because He’s God. He can do that. Or not. His call. I should should quit trying to do His job.

After much reflection and counsel, however, I think we should add two more thoughts when facing this fear about doing something for God that’s too big to fail.

Two Key Thoughts

  1. It’s none of my business. “Known to God from eternity are all His works.” His plan, whatever it is, is His plan and not my own. It’s known only by Him. In case you hadn’t noticed, God functions on a need-to-know basis. And we usually don’t need to know. In fact, He often gets more glory when we obey without fully knowing what He’s up to. His decretive will — what He has chosen to happen — will happen for His glory. My worrying about it is really a subtle attempt to take some of God’s authority as my own. No wonder it’s such a crushing burden!
  2. My Father delights to give me every good gift. Though I may not know God’s decretive will, He has made one thing sure: He will supply all my needs according to His riches in Christ Jesus. My Father loves me and gave His own Son for me. He has promised that if I seek first His Kingom, He’ll take care of the rest. As any decent father would:

If a son asks for bread  from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him! (Luke 11: 10-13)

So why am I not — usually — concerned about whether what I am attempting for God is too big to fail?

Because it’s not my problem. It’s my Father’s problem. And He is too big to fail.

I trust Him more than I trust myself.

And isn’t that what walking by faith is all about?

What are you doing that will fail if God doesn’t come through? How has He come through for you in the past? Leave a comment to share your story so we can all grow.

See Why Location Matters: Choose Your Position of Influence

Location. Location. Location.

Anyone familiar with the retail or real estate industry knows that mantra well. Location matters both with brick-and-mortar and cyberspace endeavors. Perhaps a story from our recent family trip to Harper’s Ferry will help illustrate why we have decided to choose our position of influence for Christ by moving to Atlanta.

We recently visited Antietam, Maryland, on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of that bloodiest of battles. But few recall the Southern victory at Harper’s Ferry a few days before that made Antietam such a pivotal moment in the conflict.

Although the North controlled Harper’s Ferry, Lee dispatched his army in three parts to surround it in a daring move led by General Stonewall Jackson. As I stood on grassy knoll of Bolivar Heights,  I understood clearly why Union forces finally surrendered there. In short, the South took all the high ground around them.

The view from Maryland Heights looking down onto historic Harper's Ferry.

First, the South claimed the highest vantage point overlooking Harper’s Ferry – the looming cliffs of Maryland Heights. From there, the domino effect began as Northern positions began to fall. The South could then fire on the next lowest point: Louden Heights to the east. Once they positioned artillery there, they overlooked the still lower point of Bolivar Heights to the south of the town. It was only a matter of time once the high ground was taken for the influence of the Southern guns to be felt everywhere.

Their strategic position cancelled out the other Northern advantages of superior firepower and numbers.

Location matters.

In my case, I’ve been praying fervently for wisdom as to where we should position our family for maximum Kingdom impact. Most readers have followed our prayerful walk of faith away from a safe and secure career in Christian education. God has called me to do what I have been doing successfully for the last fifteen years but on a broader platform. As we have been launched into what is essentially the full-time ministry of connecting real life with real faith, location matters. Where we live will dramatically affect our ability to influence the nation and the world for Christ.

My friend Hugh Hewitt devoted an entire chapter to this topic in In, But Not Of Revised & Updated: A Guide to Christian Ambition and the Desire to Influence the World.  He encouraged young people to choose one of the big three cities and go to at least one of them to open doors of opportunity and learn lessons available nowhere else. His advice focused on New York City (business), Washington, DC (politics), and Los Angeles (culture).  But a new option has emerged for those focused on connecting faith and life.

Atlanta.

After much fervent prayer and wise counsel, we have decided to leave Cleveland, Ohio, our home for our entire lives, and move to Atlanta, Georgia. Our reasons sound a lot like the Harper’s Ferry example. We choose to position ourselves for maximum influence for the Kingdom of God, given the calling God has given me to write, speak, and create resources to help Christians think, live and lead, with abundant faith.

Three reasons for the move:

  1. Location.
  2. Location.
  3. Location.

A bustling ministry and travel hub, Atlanta is the Maryland Heights from which we can more effectively carry out our small role in fulfilling the Great Commission.

What about you?

You too should choose your position of influence. But your vision will be unique to you. Maybe it will require a major move — especially if you’re just emerging from college. Maybe it will mean settling down. It might will involve a move out of your social comfort zone — an equally scary thought for most of us — to engage your local community. Maybe your homeowner’s association, child’s PTA group, church life-group, a local non-profit, or any of the thousands of other opportunities out there will draw your gaze. Whatever it is, we should each be intentional and choose to position yourself for maximum influence for Christ.

Of course, choosing one direction means we must leave other options behind. I confess I won’t miss the Cleveland winters all that much. I can still complain about the Browns from anywhere. And I’ll be back fairly often to visit family, friends, and ministries in Cleveland. But as C.S. Lewis so famously said:

There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.

That’s certainly true for eternity. And it’s true in this life when we are seeking first the Kingdom of God.

Then all these things will be added unto you. (Matt. 6:33)

It’s your call.

Choose to intentionally seek positions of influence for Christ. Pray diligently. Seek wise counsel. Then humbly commit your way to the Lord and get busy. You may want to consult my 5 Key Resources to Help You Discover Your Life Strengths first. But recall that in order for the Apostle Paul to dramatically influence Rome and all the known world, he had to actually go to Rome in the face of impossible obstacles and intense persecution.

So don’t expect it to be easy. Faith hurts.

Seth Godin once told me, “First, be loud.” In the Battle at Harper’s Ferry, the North had more troops, better artillery, and the advantage of being there first. But it was the South who spoke loudest once they had gained the high ground. At Antietam a few days later, the North took the high ground at key locations to alter the course of the war and our nation.

Location. Location. Location.

By God’s grace, our new location in Atlanta will position us for maximum influence for Christ to millions think, live, and lead, with abundant faith.

Prayers always welcome.

Where do you need to get intentional and choose your best location for effective influence? Leave a comment with a friendly click here.

5 Key Resources to Help You Discover Your Life Strengths

As most regular readers know, I’ve been on a journey — call it a quest – to discover my life strengths for the last five years. I’ve made quite a bit of progress, I think. The journey has caused my to take some pretty dramatic steps of faith into the unknown.

But I haven’t stepped completely into the unknown, thanks to five key resources that helped me discover my life strengths. On a recent stay with friends, I shared some of these resources with their sons. It reminded me that I have been sharing this list often of late and others might be helped by my sharing it here.

“First, know thyself.” Aristotle’s words ring more true today than ever when the wide array of options before us in Western culture can be paralyzing. For many years, I stood transfixed by the plethora of dishes at life’s buffet. Sure, I occasionally nibbled at leftovers on others’ plates while promising myself that someday I too would step up. Someday.

Uncertain of my own strengths, I waited, afraid I’d mess it up if I tried to figure out the direction my life should take. Maybe you can relate. Eventually I realized that I’m going to die whether I ever figure it out or not — so I’d best get busy.

The 5 resources I share below helped me to discover this as my life calling:

To write, speak, and create resources to help Christians think, live, and lead with abundant faith.

I just wish I had discovered them earlier in life. If you know any teens or twenty-somethings, do them a favor. Pass on this list.

My top 5 resources to help you discover your life strengths

  1. In, But Not Of Revised & Updated: A Guide to Christian Ambition and the Desire to Influence the World by Hugh Hewitt. No, I’m not just listing this one because I wrote the Forward, Study Guide, and Group Leader’s Guide. I did those things because it is that good. Loaded with proven practical advice, my friend Hugh’s book started me thinking in a very intentional manner about how to use my gifts to get and use influence for Christ.
  2. Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton. Although not the most scientifically reliable tool out there, it is a great starting point to help you identify your strength themes. After reading the first 80 pages or so, take the on-line assessment to identify your areas of natural giftedness. Mine were ideation, intellection, input, responsibility, and belief. Out of that came my preliminary purpose of creatively questioning, connecting, and communicating in the context of my beliefs.
  3. The Truth About You: Your Secret to Success also by Marcus Buckingham. Especially targeting the twenty-something demographic, Buckingham included a DVD and exercises for drilling down into your strength themes. I found when I did the work of drilling down, I quickly identified both my strengths — those things I did well which energize me — and my weaknesses — those things that sucked the life out of me no matter how good I was at them.
  4. StandOut: The Groundbreaking New Strengths Assessment from the Leader of the Strengths Revolution I know. Again with the Marcus Buckingham! But his British accent is so cool! Sorry, can’t help it. He’s done some outstanding work. This latest one gets far more scientific in its results – and it is uncannily accurate in assessing what role you play when part of a team. The on-line assessment solidified much of what I had uncovered already, but gave me even clearer vocabulary with which I could talk about my contribution. By the way, I am what Stand Out describes as “The Hub at the Center.” Provider and Connector led the way on my results with Pioneer not far behind. In short, I am a catalyst who gets things moving and cares deeply about making everyone around me better.
  5. Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God’s Will My most recent entry onto the list is from Kevin DeYoung. It is the straightforward antidote to that life direction paralysis that keeps so many of us standing still. His practical yet theologically sound advice speaks candidly to young and old alike but is especially targeted toward the young adult demographic.

I know I’ve left a lot of resources off the list, including a lot of books by John Maxwell that have dramatically influenced my life: Thinking for a Change: 11 Ways Highly Successful People Approach Life and Work, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You, and  Put Your Dream to the Test: 10 Questions to Help You See It and Seize It.

Start with these five as a gift pack for any young person in your life — or for yourself. It’s never too late to discover who you were made to be and begin to walk in that direction by faith.

What other resources have you discovered have discovered to help you find your life direction? Share your suggestions with a comment here so we can all grow.

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