Monday, December 31, 2012

7 leadership lessons from Johnny Manziel's Heisman Trophy acceptance speech: A top ten leadership post from 2012


Johnny Manziel won the 2012 Heisman Trophy. I was inspired by his speech and spent some time reflecting on what his speech said about his leadership. Even though he is only 20, we can learn some great lessons from his speech.

Below are seven leadership lessons we can learn from Manziel's acceptance speech. The lessons are followed by a complete transcript of the Texas A&M quarterback's speech.

7 leadership lessons:

1. Dream big. "This is a moment that I've dreamed about since I've been a kid - running around the backyard pretending I was Doug Flutie, throwing a Hail Mary to my dad."

2. Acknowledge the leaders who have gone before you. Manziel referred to the past Heisman trophy winners who stood behind him. "Now I'm so blessed to be on the stage with such a group of great guys and to be invited into this fraternity - what a pleasure it really is."

3. Be gracious to your competitors. Manziel looked toward the other Heisman nominees from Notre Dame and Kansas State. "What a great experience it was to meet the people that I have - Manti, Collin - not only great football players but great guys off the field as well."

4. Share the spotlight with the ones who made your leadership possible. "It's such an honor to represent Texas A&M and my teammates here tonight, I wish they could be on the stage with me." Manziel later said, "I wish my whole team can be up here with me tonight especially my great offensive line and the whole offense. Luke Joeckel, Jarvis Harrison, Cedric Ogbuehi, Jake Matthews and Patrick Lewis - I'm as safe standing right here as I am in the pocket with you guys." (I think he meant to say, "I'm as safe in the pocket with you guys as I am standing right here.")

5. Show gratitude to the people who have invested in your life. He thanked the Heisman Trust, his mom and dad, his family, his grandparents, and his coaches.

6. Lead in light of a compassionate cause that gets you beyond yourself. Joe Villavisencioa was a center on the Texas A&M who team passed away in a car accident. Manziel honored him and said, "To Mr. and Mrs. Villavisencio, if I had a son, I would want him to be exactly like him."

7. Give honor to the Lord for His love and grace. "Most of all I want to thank God for allowing me to be here. All that he's blessed me with in my entire life I'm so thankful for. For the love and the grace you have shown me, I'll be forever grateful."

Are you dreaming big?
Do you acknowledge and learn from your predecessors?
Are you gracious and encouraging to other leaders?
Do you share the spotlight?
Are you actively showing gratitude to people who have helped you along the way?
Do you have a compassionate cause that expands your heart and your horizon?
Are you giving God glory?
What are some practical steps you can take today to move forward in these 7 areas of leadership?

Below is the complete transcript of Manziel's speech:

"This is a moment that I've dreamed about since I've been a kid - running around the backyard pretending I was Doug Flutie, throwing a Hail Mary to my dad.

Now I'm so blessed to be on the stage with such a group of great guys and to be invited into this fraternity - what a pleasure it really is.

I'd like to start by thanking the Heisman Trust and everybody that made this weekend possible. What a great experience it was to meet the people that I have - Manti, Collin - not only great football players but great guys off the field as well. It's been a pleasure to get to know you guys better and I wish you all the best of luck.

It's such an honor to represent Texas A&M and my teammates here tonight, I wish they could be on the stage with me. Texas A&M, choosing that school is one of the best decisions I've ever made in my entire life and I'm so proud to be a part of that.

To mom, dad, Mary and the entire family watching - you mean the world to me. I just want to thank you for the encouragement, the love and the patience over the years.

Grandpa, to all the times we used to play in the hallway and throw the ball until we couldn't anymore, I love you with all my heart and you inspired me to play football. To Grandma, I'm so sorry for all the things we broke in the house.

To my coaches back at Kerrville Tivy - Mark Smith, Julius Scott and everybody there - you taught us all what it meant to really fight and work for something that you wanted more than anything in the world. You taught us about passion and about heart and what it truly meant to say "Tivy fight never dies."

To coach Sherman, coach Rossley, coach Sumlin, coach Kingsbury and everybody that's been part of me playing football for my entire life - you've been truly a blessing. You taught me not only what it is to be a football player but to be a man as well. For that, I thank you so much.

I wish my whole team can be up here with me tonight especially my great offensive line and the whole offense. Luke Joeckel, Jarvis Harrison, Cedric Ogbuehi, Jake Matthews and Patrick Lewis - I'm as safe standing right here as I am in the pocket with you guys. You've done a great job of keeping me off my back and I can't thank you enough for everything. To all my teammates back home, I love you with all my heart.

I especially at this time would like to honor somebody who is near and dear to everybody at Texas A&M: Joe Villavisencio. Around this time last year, a center on our team passed away in a tragic car accident. It was something that as a whole team that we really had to fight through and press on through the bowl game. To Mr. and Mrs. Villavisencio, if I had a son, I would want him to be exactly like him. I know Joey is in a better place.

Most of all I want to thank God for allowing me to be here. All that he's blessed me with in my entire life I'm so thankful for. For the love and the grace you have shown me, I'll be forever grateful.

The values that I have learned from my parents and that have been carried over by Texas A&M - leadership, respect and putting others first is what the 12th man is all about. I believe the 12th man is one of the greatest traditions in all of college football - 40,000 students standing not as fans but as members of our team. To the 12th man, Texas A&M, Kerrville, Texas and Aggies everywhere - this Heisman Trophy is for you."

Question: What other lessons do you see in Manziel's speech?

Sunday, December 30, 2012

4 ways to be more fruitful for God: A top ten leadership post in 2012


What if God wanted to do more in, through, with, and for you? What if it grieved His heart that you've been settling for less?

Jesus said, "I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given..." (Luke 19:26a).

Cuyahoga Valley Church is 25 years in 2012. Our 25th anniversary as a church has reminded me about other milestones in my personal ministry. I have just celebrated 26 years of ministry here in NE Ohio as a church planter/pastor. I started in vocational ministry in 1979, 33 years ago. And I am just 1 week into my new role at CVC as Founding Pastor and Pastor of Missional Living and Leadership Development.

I have been given much - so much more than I dreamed. I have a great wife, a wonderful family, 3 sons who are seeking to follow Jesus, a fantastic Christ-honoring daughter-in-law, and an amazing grandson. I have had and now have a place of influence at CVC. I am surrounded with people who love me. I have loyal friends.

So, when Jesus says, "Everyone who has," He's talking about me. And, I'm guessing, you.

Now, look again at the rest of the verse. "I tell you the truth," says Jesus, "that to everyone who has, more will be given." If you have some, Jesus says you will be given more.

If God lets me live long enough, I can, therefore, safely anticipate even more fruit from God over the next 25, 26, and 33 years. In 25 years, I will be 84. Could I live that long? Possibly. Could I have greater influence in the next 25 years than I have had in the last 25 years? No doubt.

See, our fruit comes from abiding in Christ (John 15:5). He's the vine and we are the branches. The branch that bears the most fruit is the one with the largest circumference, the deepest attachment, and the most continuous connection with the vine.

No matter how old we might be or what our job description might be, we can experience more. We can see an increase in fruit-bearing. How?

1) Increase the size of the circumference of the branch.

2) Deepen the connection of the attachment to the vine.

3) Decrease the frequency of disconnecting from the vine.

4) Increase the purity of the connection to the vine.

Accomplishing these four things will create an abiding-in-Christ lifestyle. When we abide, we can confidently claim verses like Luke 19:26a as a promise. We can experience more.

Consider other verses with the same promise of more. "For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance" (Matthew 13:12). "Take care then how you hear, for the one who has, more will be given" (Luke 8:18). "Every branch that does bear fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit" (John 15:2b). "But He gives more grace" (James 4:6).

Never settle for less. Always go for more... by His grace and for His glory.

Questions: How have you been settling for less? What might more look like for you?

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Stop talking trash to yourself: A top ten leadership post from 2012


"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things"
(Philippians 4:8).

This verse has obvious applications for making sure we aren't watching, hearing, or thinking impurely, lustfully, or selfishly. But I want to apply the passage another way.

Most of us are pretty good at talking trash... to ourselves. It's negative self-talk. We talk ourselves down. We think demeaning, degrading, disgusting untruths about ourselves.

And God is not glorified by that. We are created in His image and are precious in His sight. He is dishonored when we think wrongly about the ones He loved enough to redeem for Himself through the shed blood of His Son.

Yes, I know we have sinned and fall short if His glory. Yes, I know our hearts are deceitful and desperately wicked. Yes, I know we have to deal with indwelling sin. And we can learn some other day how to kill sin lest it kill us.

But for today, let's consider that there is not only more depravity in us than we could possibly fathom, there is also more dignity in us than we could possibly fathom. Let's learn to think biblically about ourselves so we can live up.

This week, I was speaking with a young leader in our city. He’s having a hard time leading right now primarily because of bad self-talk. He’s doing the stinkin’ thinkin’ thing.

I asked him, “What are the kinds of things you are saying to yourself?” He said, “I’m a loser. I am not as good as others are. I will never accomplish this or that…” My heart was breaking for him.

So, I asked, “What is God saying about you? What does He want you to believe about yourself?” We sat for 20 minutes as he thought through truth after truth. I asked him to wrote it all down. Here's some of what he wrote:

"I will stop lying to myself and speak the truth in love to my soul.

"I am not lost. I have been found by Christ and I belong to Him. He will never leave me or forsake me.

"God will richly supply my every need according to His riches in glory.

"I have been created in the image of God. He has given me unique talents and abilities. I am precious and special in God’s sight. I need not compare myself with anyone else.

"There’s no hope? NOT! God knows the plans He has for me, plans for welfare – wholeness, success, prosperity, peace, tranquility – to give me a future and a hope.

"I have great worth apart from my performance because Christ gave His life for me and imparted great value to me. I am deeply loved, fully pleasing, totally forgiven, accepted and complete in Christ."


(Taken from truths found in John 15:16, Philippians 4:19, Isaiah 43:4, Jeremiah 29:11, and Robert McGee's Search for Significance.)

I asked him to read it all back to me all at once. About 3/4ths of the way through, he had to stop reading. He had never thought that way about himself, at least not for a long time.

The truths had so powerfully impacted his soul that tears were literally streaming down this young leader’s face. He was literally speechless for 3-4 minutes.

When he composed himself and finally finished reading, I asked, “What might happen if you would just keep these words in a prominent place, read and pray through this morning, noon, and night for the next 30 days?”

This is a way to obey Philippians 4:8. It’s renewing the mind. It’s getting rid of stinkin’ thinkin’. It’s thinking biblically. This is the principle of meditation.

Questions: Is a list of truths like this something you develop for yourself this week? Do you need to read a list like this to yourself 3 times a day for the next 30 days? How will you increase the quality and quantity of time you spend in meditation this week?

5 decisions to help you be more decisive: A top ten leadership post for 2012


Decisiveness might be one of your biggest opportunity areas for growth as a leader. I know it's been a big opportunity area of growth for me.

Here are five decisions for you to make about decisiveness:

1) Get the facts. Be quicker in gathering the data you need to make the decision.

2) Find time to pray and think. Set aside time in your schedule to work on the ministry and not just in the ministry as you think through the implications of the decision. Then, don't delay. Decide. Now!

3) Stand your ground. Be careful about making a decision to go forward in a certain direction and then stopping or reconsidering based on feedback from others. Reconsidering a decision frustrates the team. Remember that you will always have people who will want you to reconsider the decision that’s been made. You can hear them and validate their concerns without changing course.

4) Clarify expectations. As you engage your team in conversation about the decision needing to be made, define 1) Who is doing what? and 2) When is an answer is needed?

5) Create a list. Keep a log on the decisions that you need to make. You will likely be surprised about all the decisions that are often left hanging. A log will keep things in front of you and help you make the decisions in a timely way.

A quote on decisiveness from Spiritual Leadership by Oswald Sanders:

“When all the facts are in, swift and clear decision is the mark of a true leader. The man who possesses vision must do something about it, or else he will remain a visionary and not a leader… The true leader will resist the temptation to procrastination in reaching a decision, nor will he vacillate after it has been made. Procrastination and vacillation are fatal to leadership. A sincere though faulty decision is better than no decision. Indeed, the latter is really a decision and often a wrong one. It is a decision that the status quo is acceptable. In most decisions, the root problem is not so much in knowing what to do as in being prepared to live with the consequences.” (pp. 76-77)

Other quotes on decisiveness:

"In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing you can do is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing." Theodore Roosevelt

"Some people will get angry at your actions and decisions. It's inevitable, if you're honorable… Ironically, by procrastinating on the difficult choices, by trying not to get anyone mad, and by treating everyone equally 'nicely' regardless of their contributions, you'll simply ensure that the only people you'll wind up angering are the most creative and productive people in the organization… Procrastination in the name of reducing risk actually increases risk." Colin Powell

"Leaders make decisions – all the time. Followers make suggestions. Making suggestions is easy because it requires no action or fear of failure. Making decisions is tough. It takes guts because there is always something at stake." Ruben Gonzalez

Question: What decisions have you made to help you be more decisive?

Friday, December 28, 2012

5 ways for leaders to get out of a funk: Top ten leadership posts for 2012


How often do you get into a funk?

Recently, I met with a young church planter who said he was in a funk. He has a wonderful family. He's gathering people, watching God change lives, and living out a dream. Yet, in spite of all the great things God is doing in his life, his introverted, melancholic, perfectionist tendencies are being leveraged by the enemy to steal his joy and peace. He's in a funk.

A funk is a dejected, disgusted, disinterested mood. When I am in a funk I am grumpy, disengaged, lethargic, and de-motivated. I am not fun to be around. I throw pity-parties. Not only does the to-do list not get done, it doesn't even get made!

I think funks are inevitable. They are part of fallen humanity. So, we shouldn't be surprised or guilt-ridden when we end up in a funk. But I know that at the root of my funk is my sin. Scripture tells us to rejoice in the Lord always (Philippians 4:4). When my heart is not rejoicing, it's a telltale sign that I have placed someone or something other than Jesus on the throne of my life. Funks flow from idolatry. When I stay in a funk, I am telling a watching world that Jesus is not enough for me. Extended funks are not OK.

Remember that God still loves you when you are in a funk (Ephesians 3:18-19). But also remember that He loves you too much to let you stay there.

In the Bible, we see leaders who got into a funk. One was David. Leadership for David was often hard. "And David was greatly distressed... But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God" (I Samuel 30:6, ESV). The KJV says that he "encouraged himself" in the Lord. Evidently, David was able to de-funk-ify his life.

I want learn more and more how to encourage myself in the Lord - how to de-funk-ify my life. My wife, my family and my friends want me to learn that, too.

So, how do we encourage ourselves and get out of a funk? It helps me to think about a plan of attack in five ways - physically, mentally, emotionally, relationally, and spiritually.

1. Move physically. Go for a walk, a run, or a bike ride. Get outside if you can. Do 10 minutes of push-ups, jumping jacks, and squats. Get to the gym. When you exercise, your brain will release endorphins that will elevate your mood. Or you might want to try something as simple as taking a shower or a bath. Or take a nap. Organize your desk and/or your office. Just change something physically.

2. Stretch mentally. Learn something new. How? Memorize a Bible verse. Learn an inspirational quote. Read a few pages in a book on theology, history, science, nature, technology, or leadership. Share a few things you learn with some friends via a note, a card, Twitter, or Facebook.

3. Grow emotionally. Put on some upbeat, happy music. Make a play list of upbeat music and play it loud. Music has a powerful way to connect us to the good times we're already experienced in the past. Even if you have no reason or don't feel like it, laugh! For 7 seconds. Your emotions will often follow your body’s lead. Smile at the people you see. And watch them smile back. Hang around people that love you or who can make you laugh. Avoid the VDPs in your life (the Very Draining People!). Instead, talk with an encouraging friend who knows how to listen and lift your spirits.

4. Serve relationally. Who (besides you!) is having a hard time? Stop feeling sorry for yourself and lift someone else's spirits. Write a note; send a card; make a call; go out with them for coffee; buy a gift card; or give a generous gift. Just do something to make someone else's day. Or volunteer to do some work with your church or your local charity. If you are married, write a love note to your spouse and mail it.

5. Soar spiritually. Read some inspiring sections or stories in the Bible that have a track record of lifting your heart. Make a list of 3-5 things (or more) you are grateful for and then thank God for them. Pour out your heart to God. Ask Him to help you get out of your funk. Remember, apart from Christ you can do nothing (John 15:5). Trying to de-funk-ify your life without Jesus is just empty/vain/futile self-help. Jesus can fill you with positive, uplifting thoughts. He can help you give thanks for what you have rather than what you don’t have. If you have Jesus, you have what money can't buy and death can't take away (Ephesians 1:3, II Peter 1:3). He can help you be joyful about what you get to do rather than what you have to do. He is the ultimate attitude-adjuster. Stay connected to Christ.

Question: So, how do you de-funk-ify your life?

How leaders make room in their hearts for people: A top ten leadership post in 2012



Most of us at some point in our past have felt driven by performance-based leaders. We've jumped through hoop after hoop to make the leader like us. We've felt like we were being used rather than being served – that the leaders are in relationship with us not for what they can give, but for what they can get.

But every now and then, we find ourselves with a leader who really cares – who really wants to give us a hand, who truly longs to see us succeed. And we feel served, not used. We may not walk off a cliff for that leader, but we’d probably consider it!

The difference is what’s in the heart. Some leaders do everything right, but their hearts are cold and hard and everyone knows it. It’s a chore to be around them. Others make lots of mistakes yet lead energized and joyous teams because the people know that the leader has their best interest at heart.

Which kind of leader are you?

The Apostle Paul was that second kind of leader. He wrote, "For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me. For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus" (Philippians 1:7-8, NASB).

Did you see the phrase “I have you in my heart”? In the Living Bible, the phrase reads, “You have a very special place in my heart.” Phillips translates it, “You are very dear to me.” The RSV renders it, “I hold you in my heart.”

It is interesting that translators of the Bible have struggled with that phrase. The question is this: Does the best translation read “I have you in my heart” or “You have me in your heart”? The first reading is telling us that Paul, the Christian leader, has the Philippians, the people on God, in his heart. The second reading is showing is that the Philippians, the Christian community, has their leader in their heart.

Maybe God wants us to think of this both ways! The great New Testament Greek scholar, A.T. Robertson said, “There is no way to decide which is the idea meant except to say that love begets love. The [Christian leader] who, like Paul, holds his people in his heart will find them holding him in their hearts.”

It makes sense, doesn’t it, that God wants both leaders and followers to have one another in their hearts? Love gives birth to love in both directions.

Whenever Paul was praying, his people were in his heart. Whether he was in the prison or at the podium, they were in his heart. His heart was big. It had room for his people.

And they had him in their hearts. They loved him. In fact, this letter to the Philippians is really a “thank you note” because they had sent Paul a financial gift. God had begun a good work in them. They had their leader in their hearts.

The truths in these two verses can help us evaluate ourselves. Most of us are leading and following. When we are in the leadership role, is there room in our hearts for our followers? When we are in the follower-ship role, is there room in our hearts for our leaders?

Question:What would you say is the evidence that leaders have followers in their hearts? And vice versa?

Leaders and Relational Curiosity: Top ten leadership posts in 2012



When a leader seeks to mobilize others, he or she will experience leadership backlash. The people you are leading will ask questions, challenge motives, and resist change.

Whenever you are questioned, challenged, or resisted, it is normal to react. You will want to defend and explain rather than learn and connect. And that will often yield a "right/wrong" or "me/you" response. Conflict and misunderstanding inevitably follow.

But a better way is to be curious. What if, instead of explaining or defending, you asked probing questions so you could learn more about your own life and leadership?

I have found that non-defensive questions are in the toolkits of the best humble, teachable leaders.

Here are three sets of questions you could ask when you are questioned, challenged, or resisted as a leader. My friend, Dr. Mike Misja of North Coast Family Foundation, helped craft the questions. (Mike wrote the book, Thriving Despite a Difficult Marriage.) These questions build on each other and display a relational curiosity.

1. Wow. So you are saying that... That's interesting. I'm curious. What is it about me that makes you think that? What is it about what I said that makes you say that? Would you tell me more about that?

2. What is your experience of me? How do I make you feel? What is it like for you to spend time with me? Do you think I am hearing you? Or do you feel dismissed by me? When we were talking I noticed that you... and I wondered if you felt/thought... What are your concerns/observations/insights about me? How could I love you and others better? Any other feedback you can offer me?

3. Thanks for your insights. I want to think about what you've shared. Will you pray with me and for me as I seek to learn and grow as a person?

Of course, if you are relationally aware, these questions will lead you to ask even more follow-up questions. Follow the flow of the Spirit as He leads you in the moment. Stay relationally curious.

When you ask questions like these, it's really an act of love.

You'll be receiving love from the person who is questioning, challenging, or resisting you. It takes bold love to speak up and speak out in the presence of a leader. Showing relational curiosity is a way for you to receive love.

And relational curiosity is a way for you to give love. When you want more from the person who is questioning, challenging, or resisting you, it's an act of love toward them because it shows that you value their opinion and insights. It's also an act of love toward God since you are acknowledging that He has put that person in your path to teach you some things about you. Finally, it's an act of love for yourself since you will learn and grow as you practice the discipline of relational curiosity.

What if we all truly became more relationally curious? I honestly think our love for God and our love for others would grow. We'd actually be better at fulfilling the Great Commandment.

Questions: If you really grew in your capacity for relational curiosity, what changes might take place in your marriage, with your family, for your friends, and through your ministry?

Thursday, December 27, 2012

7 "musts" for aspiring young leaders: Top ten leadership posts in 2012



The Bible is a book full of descriptions about older-younger leadership transitions. Moses to Joshua. Elijah to Elisha. Paul to Timothy. And in I Samuel, Saul to David.

God was sovereign over all these transitions, of course. His plan was being accomplished. But from a human standpoint, only a few of the biblical transitions were purposeful. Most were unplanned. And messy.

(The good news is that biblical narrative is descriptive, not prescriptive. We can learn from the botched leadership transitions in the Bible. We are not doomed to make the same mistakes. By God's grace and for His glory, we can do better.)

Saul's transition to David was a mess - at least on Saul's side of the equation. He was completely unaware at first that God was grooming David to be the next leader.

In I Samuel 17, we see the army of Israel being taunted by Goliath. David shows up to bring some food to his brothers. He is horrified that God's glory was being compromised by the mockery of the Philistine and the unwillingness of the Israelis to shut him up. Saul was head and shoulders taller than anyone else yet he, too, was afraid to take on the giant. So, David, the the unknown, upcoming leader, volunteers to do for Israel what no one else would do.

As you read through a few selected verses in I Samuel 17, see if you can spot some "musts" - indispensable qualities - for young aspiring leader.


Here are the seven "musts" for young aspiring leaders. 

Younger leaders must...

1. ... have the guts to take on the challenges that older leaders don't take on or won't take on. "And Saul said to David, 'You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him, for you are but a youth, and he has been a man of war from his youth.'"

2. ... fight against Goliaths not for their own glory, but for the glory of God and the protection of the people. "
This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand... that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the LORD saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the LORD's, and he will give you into our hand."

3. ... trust solely in the Lord to overcome the odds against them. "Then David said to the Philistine, 'You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head.'"

4. ... leverage past experiences for future victories."And David said, 'The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.' And Saul said to David, 'Go, and the LORD be with you!'"

5. ... refuse to wear someone else's armor to the battle. "Then Saul clothed David with his armor. He put a helmet of bronze on his head and clothed him with a coat of mail, and David strapped his sword over his armor. And he tried in vain to go, for he had not tested them. Then David said to Saul, 'I cannot go with these, for I have not tested them.' So David put them off." 

6. ... use the unique tools God has placed in their hands. "Then he took his staff in his hand and chose five smooth stones from the brook and put them in his shepherd's pouch. His sling was in his hand, and he approached the Philistine."
 
7. ... inspire others to join the battle and rout God's enemies. "When the Philistine arose and came and drew near to meet David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine. And David put his hand in his bag and took out a stone and slung it and struck the Philistine on his forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell on his face to the ground. And the men of Israel and Judah rose with a shout and pursued the Philistines..."

Questions: What is the Goliath that God wants you to defeat? Which of these musts do you need to apply the most? Will you trust God and step up to the responsibility? Will you fight the good fight in a unique way? Will you give God the glory when He uses you to defeat that Goliath?

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

ICNUs: How to be a better encourager: Top ten leadership posts of 2012


A top 10 leadership post from March, 2012.

In his book, Exponential, Dave Ferguson writes about coaching and mentoring. He advises coaches to end the time with an ICNU, "Here's what I see in you..."

This is something that I need to do better.

The world beats us up. We all receive many, many discouraging messages every day. We all know defeated, depressed, discouraged people. They live with us and around us. Close by. People need encouragement. A lot.

When we give others an ICNU, we speak strength and hope and vision into the soul of another. Spouses need to do this with each other. Parents need to do it with kids. Friends with friends. Pastors to churches. Bosses to employees (and vice versa). You to someone... today...

This past Sunday evening, I spoke at 707 to our young adults at CVC. After the service, I was able to connect with a young man who had been homeless for 4 years. He's now living with extended family. They invited him to CVC.

I liked this young man. I asked him about his relationship to Christ. He was unsure. So, I shared the story of Jesus with him, gave him a Bible, and asked him to read about God's plan to save him and invite him into His story. On Wednesday, I am following up to see if he's responded to the gospel and wants to make Jesus his pardon, his pattern, and his power for living.

Then, I gave him an ICNU, "I see in you a young man who has a lot of potential for good. You have had many difficult experiences in life. I have seen God use mightily someone who has had difficulties and has overcome them. You will be an inspiration for others who have had some of the same difficulties as you."

Please pray for this young man that he will trust Christ as his personal Savior and Lord.

And please give an ICNU to someone today. Think. Who needs an ICNU from you? Who will it be?

Now, from me to you. I see in you... an amazingly empowering conversation with someone today who desperately needs it. Will you do it?

4 ways to respond to critics: Top 10 leadership posts in 2012


Repost from January, 2012:

A few weeks ago, I received an email from an attender at CVC that was challenging our approach to scripture during our series on claiming the promises of God. The criticism was nicely-stated for the most part. The bottom line was that we need to encourage CVCers to approach scripture in a more scholarly, more bibically-accurate way. At the end of the email, the writer implied that I lack the kind of courage needed to lead our people at CVC to grow deeper.

So, how should a leader respond to this kind of criticism?

1) Take it to the Lord in prayer. Don't totally ignore the criticism. God is sovereign over all that comes our way. There are things to learn from any criticism that comes our way.

2) Address the critcism when you are led to do so. Sometimes, we will be led to ignore criticism. Proverbs 26:4 says, "Answer not a fool according to his folly lest you be like him yourself." Other times, we address the issues raised. Proverbs 26:5 says, "Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes." There are times we can explain ourselves without being defensive.

3) Maintain a positive perspective. Don't give more weight to the criticism than it deserves. We don't want it to immobilize us.

4) Be a pastor. Don't abdicate the pastoral role that you can have toward the critic. It's not only a teaching opportunity for those of us being criticised, but for the critic as well.

For better or worse, below is part of how I responded.

***

I always take very seriously the criticism of others. It causes humility and dependency in my life. I take it to the Lord and ask Him what parts of the criticism I am to receive and what parts I am to reject. Please know that I am doing the same with your letter.

Regarding your concerns about turning promises into "talisman-like objects" and claiming promises from God's Word that do not apply to individuals in the church age, I appreciate your cautions.

I do also believe that it is appropriate for us to claim the promises of God as long as we are wise, cautious, and non-demanding. During the messages, both Chad and I tried to emphasize the fact that these promises were made to the specific individuals at specific times for specific purposes. Therefore, it would be inappropriate for us to "hold God hostage" to precisely keep those promises for us today.

When we go to God, we are wise to claim the promises this way, "Lord God, I know You gave this promise to Israel. But I also know that this promise tells me something about how You relate to Your people. It shows Your character and nature. Therefore, I am asking you to fulfill for me and for my family what You promised to Israel. So, right now I am claiming this promise. It's up to You when and how You will fulfill this promise. I am asking and I am trusting." For a reformed perspective on the promises of God, please check out Joel Beeke's book, "Living by God's Promises."

You asked, "Could it be that you are actually afraid to send your flock to a commentary or scholarly source?" I am not afraid to share scholarly sources. But a sermon that is filled with references to sources is more of a lecture, than a message. So, you may not like this explanation, but I have chosen over the years to do my academic homework before preaching, but to limit the references I make to sources. If God is calling you to pastor and preach, then you might choose to handle that differently in your church. My way of encouraging our people to grow deeper in theological understanding is to point people to sources like the ESV Study Bible, John Piper's writings, and other solid books through some sermon references, one-on-one communications, recommended reading, blog writing, Facebook, Twitter, and newsletters. The cumulative effect of this has deepened the lives of many over the years.)

Please pray for me that I will fulfill God's calling on my life to be a man who has God's good hand on my life as I study the law of the Lord, practice it and teach His statutes and commands to His people (Ezra 7:9-10).

Regarding the close to your letter that challenged me to "grow a pair," I have just a few comments. One, as a former professional baseball player who has been many times challenged in less than edifying ways, I am not personally offended. Two, I agree that there is room in my life to grow in the area of courage and strength. I also think that is true for all of us. Three, your use of those coarse words was unbecoming, unworthy of the walk we have been called to, and unbiblical. (See Ephesians 4:29, Ephesians 5:4, Colossians 3:8, and Matthew 12:34-37 for the Lord's commands that our language be edifying.) Four, the dignified and well-phrased points that made up the majority our your letter were tainted and diminished by the crudeness of your comment at the end. Ecclesiastes 10:4 says, "Dead flies make the perfumer's ointment give off a stench; so a little folly outweighs wisdom and honor." Proverbs 16:21 says, "The wise of the heart is called discerning, and sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness." I encourage you to use words that are gracious, winsome, and edifying and you will find that your influence for Christ will grow.

***

Well, that's a part of my response. Do you have any advice for me? How would you have handled this critic?

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A simple Christmas prayer


Merry Christmas. 

Jesus came into this broken world to bring us more hope, peace, joy, and love in our lives.

For us to get more of all that, we must receive all that Jesus is for all that we need. Colossians 3:11 says, "Christ is all and in all." Is that true for you?

This Christmas...

Let's receive the Christ of the Cradle. Has Christ been born in our lives again today? As the carol says, "Cast out our sin and enter in. Be born in us today."

Let's receive the Christ of the Cross. Have we come to the cross for the forgiveness of our sins again today? As the word says, "The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin and guilt."

Let's receive the Christ of the Crown. Have we made Jesus the king of our lives again today? As the prayer says, "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done." In me, O Lord, in me. 

Yes, Jesus is the way for us to find more hope, peace, joy, and love. But we must receive Him. And not just part of Him for part of us. But all of Christ for all of us.

Let's pray, "Today, I receive all of You, Christ. You are the Christ of the cradle, cross, and crown. I want all of You for all of me. You are all in all. So, be all of You for all of me. Again and again. Amen."

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas: A history




Did you know that the man who wrote this song, Hugh Martin, was a follower of Christ? Martin was born in Birmingham, Alabama in 1914. He attended Birmingham-Southern College where he studied music. Martin's faith played an important role in the evolution of the song, arguably one of the most poignant Christmas songs of all time. 

What is it about the song that hits the heart? Bette Midler, who sang it on her album, Cool Yule, said it well, "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas manages to be happy and sad at the same time, hopeful but full of melancholy, as all the best Christmas songs are."

The history of the song is fascinating. Hugh Martin originally wrote the song for the 1944 movie Meet Me in Saint Louis starring Judy Garland. Meet Me in St. Louis became a classic and was nominated for Academy Awards.

The film was based on Sally Benson's memoirs of St. Louis where she had lived. It tells the story of a family on the threshold of the twentieth century living with warmth and joy. The film basically reaffirms traditional American family values while hoping that nothing will ever change those values. The film resonated with viewers during the difficult days of World War II.


In a scene set on Christmas Eve, Judy Garland's character, Esther, sings the song to cheer up her five-year-old sister, Tootie, played by Margaret O'Brien. The audience was moved to tears when Garland sang this song. In the film, Esther and her little sister, Tootie, are sad about moving away to New York from their cherished home in St Louis.

But before the song was sung in the movie, Martin had to revise the lyrics. The original song had overtly melancholic lyrics that Garland simply did not want to sing. 

Below you will find the original lyrics that Hugh Martin first wrote for the movie. 

Have yourself a merry little Christmas
It may be your last
Next year we may all be living in the past
Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Pop that champagne cork
Next year we may all be living in New York
No good times like the olden days
Happy golden days of yore
Faithful friends who were dear to us
Will be near to us no more
But at least we all will be together
If the Lord allows
From now on, we'll have to muddle through somehow
So have yourself a merry little Christmas now

Now, that is a sad, sad song. I'm thinking that these lyrics would have made a soon-to-be-forgotten song in the film. 

"I often wondered what would it have been like if those lyrics had been sung in the movie," laughed O'Brien, who played the part of Tootie, the little girl. "But about a week before we were to shoot the scene where Judy sings it to me, she looked at the lyrics and said, 'Don't you think these are awfully dark? I'm going to go to Hugh Martin and see if he can lighten it up a little.'"

Martin initially balked at changing the words. "They said, 'It's so dreadfully sad.' I said, 'I thought the girls were supposed to be sad in that scene.' They said, 'Well, not that sad.' And Judy was saying, 'If I sing that to that sweet little Margaret O'Brien, they'll think I'm a monster!'"

Martin recounted the story, "I said with a touch of hostility, 'You tell Judy that if she wants the melody, she’s gotta take the lyric. Period!' It was Tom Drake [the young male lead], who finally broke down my stubbornness. He asked if he could buy me a cup of coffee. Then he nailed me, but not in a mean way. Tom was a friend who admired my music and didn’t want to see me louse myself up. He looked me straight in the eye. 'Hugh, this is potentially a very great and important song. I feel that in my guts. Now listen to me. Don’t be a stubborn idiot. You stupid son of a b----! You're gonna foul up your life if you don't write another verse of that song! Write a lyric for that beautiful melody that Judy will sing. You’ll thank me.'"

Martin said, "Tom got through to me over a cup of coffee where the big executives had failed. That was sixty-five years ago, but Tom, I do thank you from my heart!"

Martin came up with new, less downbeat lyrics. As Garland eventually sang it in the movie, the song imagines the possibility of a bright future but finally admits, in a powerful line, that "until then, we'll have to muddle through somehow."

Of special note is the fact that the lyric "if the Lord allows" was changed to say "if the fates allow." It seems that even in the 40s, Hollywood was intent on removing religious references to make the song as accessible to a secular audience. 

Below you will find the new lyrics that Judy Garland sang in the movie. 

Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Let your heart be light
Next year all our troubles will be out of sight
Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Make the yuletide gay
Next year all our troubles will be miles away
Once again as in olden days
Happy golden days of yore
Faithful friends who were dear to us
Will be near to us once more
Someday soon we all will be together
If the fates allow
Until then, we'll have to muddle through somehow
So have yourself a merry little Christmas now

This became one of Garland's most mesmerizing screen moments. "Out of all my mom's movies," said Garland's daughter Lorna Luft, "that's the hardest scene for me to watch."

Garland helped Martin's Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas become a smash hit. Decca Records issued it as a single soon after the movie made its debut. The song was popular with soldiers stationed overseas as WWII was ending. Garland's amazing vocals gave the song an extraordinary quality that was at once cheerful and sad, echoing the longing of soldiers and their families for the "happy golden days of yore."

13 years later, another super star who brought the sing back into the limelight. Frank Sinatra wanted to include the song in an album of Christmas songs, but the melancholic tone didn't sit well with him. He asked Hugh Martin to rewrite some lyrics yet again. Martin said about Sinatra, "He called to ask if I would rewrite the 'muddle through somehow' line. Sinatra said, 'The name of my album is A Jolly Christmas. Do you think you could jolly up that line for me?'" 

Martin agreed. He changed the song's focus to a celebration of present happiness, rather than anticipation of a better future. He also changed the "muddle through" line to "Hang a shining star upon the highest bough." The song became even more joyous and even more successful. Sinatra released the song on his Christmas album and the even newer lyrics have now become the most widely used.

Below you will find the newer lyrics that Frank Sinatra sang on his album.




Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Let your heart be light
From now on, our troubles will be out of sight
Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Make the yuletide gay
From now on, our troubles will be miles away
Here we are as in olden days
Happy golden days of yore
Faithful friends who are dear to us
Gather near to us once more
Through the years we all will be together
If the fates allow
Hang a shining star upon the highest bough
And have yourself a merry little Christmas now

The Sinatra version made the song into a Christmas favorite. Martin said, "It's been a little confusing because half the people sing one line (muddle through) and half sing the other (shining star)." But perhaps Martin overestimated the use of the "muddle through" line. It seems that most artists still sing the Sinatra lyrics. Even Garland herself eventually sang Sinatra's version. Martin, though, said, "I still kind of like 'muddle through somehow,' myself. It's just so kind of...down-to-earth.''

More recently, some singers have been opting for the "muddle through" words. James Taylor sang it that way after 9/11. Taylor said, "In times of strife, we 'muddle through,' as the lyric says." 

Linda Ronstadt sang it both ways. "'Muddle through' is what we do,'' said Ronstadt, "but I love the bravado of 'hanging the shining star,' because it gets past the layers of anxiety to find that little beacon of hope and bravery." 

Below you will find the unique way lyrics that Linda Ronstadt sang on her album.

Have yourself a merry little Christmas. 
Let your heart be light, 
From now on our troubles will be out of sight. 
Have yourself a merry little Christmas, 
Make the Yule-tide gay, 
From now on our troubles will be miles away. 
Here we are as in olden days, 
Happy golden days of yore, 
Faithful friends who are dear to us 
Gather near to us once more. 
Through the years we all will be together 
If the Fates allow, 
Hang a shining star on the highest bough, 
And have yourself a merry little Christmas now 

Here we are as in olden days, 
Happy golden days of yore, 
Faithful friends who are dear to us 
Gather near to us once more. 
Through the years we all will be together 
If the Fates allow, 
Until then we’ll have to muddle through somehow, 
And have yourself a merry little Christmas now

Singing both lines might just communicate best the joys and the struggles we all know at Christmas and throughout the year.

There is one more rendition of the song from the pen of Hugh Martin. At age 86, Martin wrote a distinctly Christ-centered version of the song. Martin, a Seventh Day Adventist, was an active pianist for various ministries. With John Fricke, Martin wrote, "Have Yourself a Blessed Little Christmas." That version of the song was recorded by gospel female vocalist Del Delker with Martin accompanying her on piano.





Have yourself a blessed little Christmas
Christ the King is born
Let your voices ring upon this happy morn
Have yourself a blessed little Christmas
Serenade the Earth
Tell the world we celebrate the Savior's birth
Let us all proclaim the joyous tidings
Voices raised on high
Send this carol soaring up into the sky,
This very merry blessed Christmas lullaby.
Let us gather to sing to Him
And to bring to Him our praise
Son of God and a Friend of all
To the end of all our days
Sings hosannas, hymns, and hallelujahs
As to Him we bow
Make the music mighty as the heav’ns allow
And have yourself a blessed little Christmas now.

The sacred rewrite, of course, makes the song fundamentally different. And, to me, after hearing the Garland and Sinatra versions for so long, the overtly religious lyrics seem to be forced and out-of-place. 

NewSong lead singer Michael O'Brien noted that the line "through the years, we all will be together if the Lord allows" was part of the original song. O'Brien met Hugh Martin in 1990 when Martin was playing piano at a church where O'Brien was singing. Martin commented on the "if the Lord allows" line and said, "That's the original way I wrote it, so I want you to sing it this way."

After reading through and processing all the lyrics, below is how I feel the song could be best sung. It makes up 2 verses that are a combination of lyrics that Martin wrote over the years. 

Have yourself a merry little Christmas. 
Let your heart be light, 
From now on our troubles will be out of sight. 
Have yourself a merry little Christmas, 
Make the Yule-tide gay, 
From now on our troubles will be miles away. 
Here we are as in olden days, 
Happy golden days of yore, 
Faithful friends who are dear to us 
Gather near to us once more. 
Through the years we all will be together 
If the Lord allows, 
Until then we’ll have to muddle through somehow, 
And have yourself a merry little Christmas now 

Have yourself a merry little Christmas.
Christ the King is born.
Let your voices ring upon this happy morn.
Have yourself a merry little Christmas.
Serenade the earth.
Tell the world we celebrate the Savior's birth.
Here we are as in olden days, 
Happy golden days of yore, 
Faithful friends who are dear to us 
Gather near to us once more. 
Through the years we all will be together 
If the Lord allows, 
Hang a shining star on the highest bough,
And have yourself a merry little Christmas now!

I would love to hear someone sing this song that way.

This version uses some some of Martin's Christ-centered lyrics while keeping "merry little Christmas" instead of using "blessed little Christmas." We do want people to be blessed, but to me the change form "merry" to "blessed" seems jarring. It's too drastic a change for me. Since the Lord is sovereign over the fates, I prefer using "if the Lord allows" throughout. I also like the idea of ending the song with the "shining star" lyric while using the "muddle through" line in the first verse. "Muddle through" reminds me of the fallen world we live in while "shining star" reminds me of the hope we have because "Christ the King is born."

Whew! Now, that's a lot of rewrites. I guess that's what can happen if the songwriter lives into his nineties. Martin died on March 11, 2011 in California at the age of 96.

You can find out more about Hugh Martin's life and the history of the song at websites of NPR, Entertainment Weekly, Time Magazine, The New York Times, and The Washington Post

Questions: What are your favorite renditions of the song? How do you feel about all the rewrites? Using only Martin's lyrics, how would you like to hear someone sing the song? 

Friday, December 21, 2012

Victory in Christ: A Spiritual Warfare Prayer




Our Father in heaven, 


You are my Hope, my Victory, and my Peace. Because you are the only sovereign King who rules over all heaven and earth, I will be confident and unafraid today. My strength, my courage, and my joy come only from You, Lord. You alone are my Savior. (Matthew 12:20-21; Isaiah 9:6-7; I Timothy 6:15-16; Isaiah 41:10; Isaiah 12:2)

I come to You, Father, only through the merits of the Lord Jesus Christ, the One who died on the cross and shed His blood to forgive all my sins - past, present, and future - and who rose from the dead, ascended into heaven, and sent His Spirit to live in me. (Romans 5:8-10; I Corinthians 15:3-6; Acts 1:8-9)

I come to You, Father, through the power of the Holy Spirit who has caused me to be born again, who now lives in me, and who intercedes for me with groanings too deep for words. (John 3:3-8, John 14:16-17, Romans 8:26)

I come boldly to Your throne of grace to find Your help in my time of need. I need You today, Lord. I am desperate for You. I trust You, Lord God, to defeat my enemies - the world, the flesh, and the devil - that wage war against the physical, relational, emotional, and spiritual health of my family, my ministry, and my soul. (Hebrews 4:16; Psalm 63:1; Ephesians 6:10-18)

I ask You, Lord God, to demonstrate Your great power over the enemy. Win victories this day in, through, with, and for me. I realize that I am not wrestling against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:10-12)

I am Your child, heavenly Father. Since I am Your child, then I am Your heir - an heir of God and a fellow heir with Christ. Because I am in Christ, I can now resist the devil. In Christ, I claim the promise that no weapon formed against me or my family shall prosper. (Romans 8:15-17; I Peter 5:8-9; Isaiah 54:17)

Holy Spirit, lead me and guide me today. Fill me. Bear Your fruit through me. Grant to me the ability to discern between righteousness and wickedness and the wisdom to choose the path of righteousness. (Romans 8:13-14; Ephesians 5:18; Galatians 5:22-23; Ephesians 5:10; Joshua 24:14-15)

Thank You, Lord Jesus, for rescuing me from my sins and the devil’s stronghold by going to the cross for me. You have disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame by triumphing over them through Your work on the cross. (Colossians 2:13-15; II Corinthians 2:14) 

Thank You for clothing me in Your righteousness in Christ Jesus. I am Your property. I belong to You, Lord. Grant to me Your prosperity as I delight in Your law and meditate on Your Word. (Isaiah 61:10; I Corinthians 6:19-20; Psalm 1:1-3; Joshua 1:8)

I know that the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion wanting to devour me. He and his demons are seeking to steal, kill, and destroy everything good and godly that I hold dear. Help me today to trust in You, to win today’s spiritual battles, and to bring glory and honor to Your name. (1 Peter 5:8; John 10:10b; Ephesians 6:12; Luke 10:18) 

When the enemy causes me to doubt my identity in Christ—telling me I’m a worthless sinner, a lost cause, an embarrassment to You—remind me of whose I am and who You say I am - a saint, a new creation, Your beloved child, living new in Christ. (Ephesians 1:1; II Corinthians 5:17; John 3:16)

Lord, please forgive me for the ways I have given the enemy opportunities to gain any foothold or stronghold in my life, my family, or my ministry. By Your grace and for Your glory, help me take back any ground he’s gained in my life, in my family, or in my ministry. Help me be aware of his schemes and to not be ignorant of his devices. (Deuteronomy 18:9-12; Psalm 139:23-24; Ephesians 4:27, Ephesians 6:11; II Corinthians 2:11)

Sovereign God, keep me from the enemy: the evil one, the tempter, the accuser. Protect me from his followers, fallen angels who are now the evil spirits who seek to minimize and neutralize my life in Christ. Lead me not into temptation, but deliver me from the evil one. (Revelation 12:7-9; Matthew 6:13; 1 Thessalonians 3:5; Revelation 12:10, Leviticus 17:7; Luke 8:30; Luke 7:21)

Help me to submit again today to Your authority, Your control, and Your will. May Your kingdom come and Your will be done in and through me. Lead me to say “no” to the devil and his temptations and “yes” to You and Your abundant life. By Your power, help me resist the devil and see him flee. (Matthew 6:10; Luke 9:23; John 10:10; James 4:7)

Lord Jesus, help me to live in the light of Your presence. Lead me in Your paths of righteousness and away from anything evil. (John 17:15; Ephesians 1:18-23; John 12:26; Psalm 23:3)

Mighty Lord, thank You for spiritual armor for the spiritual battle—the belt of truth; breastplate of righteousness; helmet of salvation; feet fitted with the readiness of the Gospel of peace; shield of faith; and the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. By faith, I now put on each piece. Help me remain strong in Your mighty power and stand against the enemy’s wicked schemes. (Ephesians 6:10-18)

Thank You for such spiritual weapons as faith, truth, and righteousness that demolish strongholds. Help me to keep my mind fixed on what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy. (II Corinthians 10:3-6; Philippians 4:8)

Holy Spirit, I know my own actions can open the door to the enemy. Lead me to be humble, not prideful; forgiving, not holding grudges; content, not striving for what doesn’t satisfy. (II Corinthians 2:10-11; Galatians 5:22,23; Ephesians 4:27)

I recognize that the devil is attempting to incite me to sin - to prompt me to do evil. I’m desperately dependent on You to fight off the enemy’s deceitful attacks. (1 Chronicles 21:1; John 13:2; Acts 5:3)

I pray as well for each member of my family and for my pastors, church staff, and fellow believers. May they also suit up in Your armor and experience victory by Your power. (Colossians 4:3; 1 Thessalonians 5:25; Hebrews 13:18; 1 Peter 5:8-10)

Assist me now, Lord, as I exert my authority in Christ over the enemy. (Because we wrestle against demons - spiritual forces of wickedness, this is an opportunity to address and resist the evil spirit behind particular sins or temptations you or your loved ones are facing such as unbelief, depression, anger, lust, fear, greed, despair, pride, sloth, etc.)

In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, the One who shed His blood on the cross and rose from the grave, I command you, evil spirit of ___________ to leave me, my family, and my ministry. Because I am in Christ and stand in His victory over you, you must flee. Evil spirits, rulers, authorities, cosmic powers, spiritual  forces of darkness, you are now bound from my family, my mind, my body, my home, and my finances. In the name of Jesus, I resist the devil and all demons.  

Now, I ask You, Lord God, to build a hedge of protection around me and my loved ones throughout this day and night. I ask You, in the name of Jesus, to send angels to surround us and to protect us today and everyday. Guard our souls, bodies, minds, wills and emotions. May Your holy angels to protect us from any and all harmful demonic attacks. Because the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ is with me, I live by faith and know that You, the God of peace, will soon crush Satan under my feet. I long to see Satan fall like lightning as I live in the authority You have given me over the power of the enemy. (Job 1:10; Psalm 3:3; Psalm 34:7; Romans 16:20; Luke 10:18-19)

Almighty God, use me as a soldier in Your spiritual battles. I need not live in fear because greater are You who lives inside me than the enemy who is in the world. Enable me to fight the good fight and advance Your Kingdom into the enemy’s occupied territory. (Colossians 2:15; 1 John 4:4; II Timothy 4:6-8)

Father God, keep me alert to the evil one with spiritual eyes wide open as You use me to make a difference for eternity by helping other people come to know You, grow in You, and live for You. (1 Thessalonians 5:6; Proverbs 4:23, 1 Corinthians 10:12; Matthew 28:19-20)

O Lord, thank You that absolutely nothing - not even the spiritual forces of evil - can separate me from Your love. (Romans 8:38-39; Luke 4:1-13)

I ask all of this in the name of Jesus. Amen and Amen.

***

This prayer has been written as a result of my personal study and with help from Dean Ridings, author of the Pray! Prayer Journal (NavPress) and Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology. 

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