Ministering to Vets, Overcoming Tempers & Practical Apostolic Principles for Success with Special Guest Josh Michael

Ryan speaks with longtime best-friend and highly decorated army veteran Josh Michael. They reminisce about younger days in the band Four In The Fire, discuss ways churches and individuals can minister to veterans in their communities, how to overcome hot tempers, simple, practical insights into life and success that everyone can use right now. They put success in its proper perspective and discuss how every failure and pain prepares us for better things in the future.

Apostolic Voice Podcast | Ep. 14

Portraits of Courage

In 2007, Josh was featured in a collection of portraits painted by former president George W. Bush of American soldiers called Portraits of Courage: A Commander in Chief’s Tribute to America’s Warriors. Josh’s story is featured in the book as well. The cover picture of this article was taken at the unveiling of President Bush’s portraits of courage.

10 Symptoms of Insecure Leadership

Insecure leaders are dangerous to any organization. They are especially hazardous in church settings. Quick clarification, every leader has areas of insecurity. And, leaders have seasons of insecurity that aren’t permanent. Usually, because of extremely traumatic circumstances, exhaustion, or feelings of displacement in a new position, role, or environment. This article is addressing chronic toxic insecurities in leaders. Toxically insecure leaders destroy lives, organizations, and almost everything they touch if they don’t recognize their internal condition and correct it.

Insecure leaders are dangerous to any organization. They are especially hazardous in church settings. Quick clarification, every leader has areas of insecurity. And, leaders have seasons of insecurity that aren’t permanent.

If you’re a leader, check yourself for these symptoms. Better yet, ask your spouse or someone you respect if you are showing any of these symptoms. If you are, it doesn’t have to be terminal. You can adjust, grow, change, and become a truly dynamic leader. Facing our flaws is always challenging, but it pays big dividends later on.

Maybe you’re concerned someone close to you is a toxic leader. If so, please understand a toxically insecure leader will display at least three or more of these symptoms. Be careful not to misdiagnose a leader because they exhibit one or two of these symptoms from time to time. However, if you find that you are working with or for a toxically insecure leader, you would be wise to distance yourself if and when possible. Otherwise, you will be pulled into their injuriousness as either a collaborator or a victim.

King Saul is a prime biblical example of a genuinely toxic insecure leader. He was anointed, impressive, loved, and gifted, but his unbridled jealous insecurities prompted him to hate David. King Saul’s insecurities sent him down a twisted path of self-destructive behavior. Tragically, when a leader like Saul falls prey to their insecurities, they can unleash a whirlwind of hurt. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Below are ten common symptoms found in toxically insecure leaders. However, along with each symptom, there is a helpful prescription listed.

1. Insecure Leaders are Easily Offended

Not only are they offended easily by genuine affronts, but insecure leaders are angered by a seemingly endless list of perceived slights. Insecure leaders continuously feel as if they are being disrespected, attacked, taunted, or rejected. The insecure leader’s posture of offense reveals selfishness as their deeper character flaw. Because they view everything through the lens of self, they filter everyone’s actions as being about or directed at them. Insecure leaders speak and act against their real or perceived offenders often. They go on long crusades demanding respect or diminishing those who seemingly refuse to admire them.

Insecure leaders continuously feel as if they are being disrespected, attacked, taunted, or rejected. This reveals selfishness as their deeper character flaw. Because they view everything through the lens of self…

The Prescription for Easily Offended Leaders

“Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense”

Proverbs 19:11

We overcome offenses by looking up to God. It really is that simple. The apostle Peter reminds us that it is an honor to suffer offense – even unjust offenses – if we are mindful of God (1 Peter 2:19). To be sure, Peter’s readers were dealing with offenses more severe than the kind Westerners typically face: physical abuse (1 Peter 2:20), ridicule (1 Peter 4:4), fiery trials (1 Peter 4:12). But learning to overlook the most significant offenses usually begins with learning to forgive the smallest. Enduring slander begins with enduring a sarcastic remark. Enduring a beating begins with enduring a cold shoulder. Being mindful of God in everyday offenses trains us to be mindful of Him when the worst comes.

“The daggers others throw your way will become in God’s hand chisels to fashion you into the image of Christ.”

Scott Hubbard

Offended leaders must rest in the knowledge that God sees all offenses (Hebrews 4:13), God will settle all offenses (Romans 12:19), and God can satisfy us amid offense (Isaiah 58:11). When offense comes, it’s always tempting to allow bitterness, revenge, fantasy, distraction, pleasure, or self-justification to bring temporary satisfaction to our grievance. But only God can fill us with joy unspeakable and full of glory (1 Peter 1:8). Only God can call us back from darkness (1 Peter 2:9). We can always rise above offense by lifting our eyes to God.

Learning to overlook the most significant offenses usually begins with learning to forgive the smallest. Enduring slander begins with enduring a sarcastic remark. Enduring a beating begins with enduring a cold shoulder.

We can always rise above offense by lifting our eyes to God.

2. Insecure Leaders Pass the Blame

Confident leaders are comfortable accepting responsibility for their mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes, drops the ball, and gets it wrong from time to time. But insecure leaders find creative ways to blame others for their failures. They pass the buck to anyone or anything they can find. Because insecure leaders refuse to acknowledge their own mistakes, they never learn to correct them.

Furthermore, individuals forced to take blame unfairly on an insecure leader’s behalf are deeply wounded. Understandably, this creates constant turnover and turmoil in the leaders serving underneath an insecure leader. At the root of the blame game are an insecure leader’s ego and pride. Passing the buck begins by uprooting pride. Once pride is gone, humility can confidently take its place.

Insecure leaders find creative ways to blame others for their failures. They pass the buck to anyone or anything they can find. Because insecure leaders refuse to acknowledge their own mistakes, they never learn to correct them.

At the root of the blame game are an insecure leader’s ego and pride. Passing the buck begins by uprooting pride. Once pride is gone, humility can confidently take its place.

The Prescription for Blame Passing Leaders

“For we are each responsible for our own conduct.”

Galtatians 6:5

God resists prideful leaders who lack humility (James 4:6). On the other hand, God gives grace to the humble (James 4:6). Thankfully the passage of Scripture doesn’t stop there. It goes on to provide us with the exact prescription for curing pride:

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

James 4:8-10 ESV

3. Insecure Leaders Tear Other People Down

Insecure leaders can’t help themselves from tearing other people down verbally, not necessarily to their face, but behind their backs. They are careful to couch their criticism as concern or something innocuous, but they intend to tear down their perceived competition. Insecure leaders feel threatened by talented, gifted, or well-liked people, and they make it their mission to belittle those people cleverly.

Insecure leaders feel threatened by talented, gifted, or well-liked people, and they make it their mission to belittle those people cleverly.

The Prescription for People Bashing Leaders

“No one has ever made himself look great by showing how small someone else is”

Irvin Himmel

There are two self-serving reasons to stop tearing other people down, whether it be overtly or subtly. First, people just don’t like or trust people who manipulatively bash other people. People bashers tend to think they’re super slick in how they do it, but people quickly catch on to it. Secondly, the absolute fear of God should be a strong motivator to stop tearing others down. Especially if they are godly people. In the book of Ephesians, the Apostle Paul wrote: Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up… (Ephesians 4:29 ESV)”. But Paul doesn’t stop there. He continues with an ominous warning: …do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God… (Ephesians 4:30 ESV). To grieve the Holy Spirit is to invite the judgment of God. If nothing else, selfishly avoid God’s wrath by lifting others up rather than tearing them down.

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Ephesians 4:31-32

4. Insecure Leaders Avoid Necessary Risk

An aversion to necessary risks often paralyzes insecure leaders. This one is tricky to spot in a leader because sometimes, risk aversion is wisdom. However, good leaders know risk is unavoidable, healthy, and necessary from time to time. We might call it a leap of faith, or stepping out by faith, or moving forward. Insecure leaders avoid these steps of faith to the detriment of the people depending on them for guidance.

A Cowardly Confederate General

Bright red blood contrasted sharply with the brilliant white snow on a bone-chilling February morning in 1862. Confederate troops under the command of General Gideon Pillow were trapped in Fort Donelson near Dover, Tennessee. General Ulysses S. Grant’s federal troops had them nearly surrounded, and union reinforcements were arriving regularly. General Pillow and his officers knew if they didn’t fight their way out, they would be starved out or frozen out by General Grant.

Federal ironclad boats steamed up the Cumberland River to shell the confederate fort into submission. But southern cannons barraged the ironclads so mercilessly they were forced to retreat. This long-range victory heartened the southern soldiers and emboldened them for battle. The plan was to break through enemy lines and regroup with reinforcements in Nashville. General Pillow realized it would be a bitter fight, but he was shocked to see more union soldiers than expected just over the hill’s crest directly between them and their escape route.

Deafening rebel yells pierced the frosty air as Pillow’s men fiercely charged union lines. After only an hour of fighting, it was almost impossible to see snow because of the crystalizing crimson stains. Miraculously, Pillow’s men busted through federal lines opening up a clear path to Nashville. The breach was only temporary and needed to be exploited by rebel troops quickly. General Pillow needed to give fearless and decisive leadership. But the confederate leader was frozen by more than just the icy winter temperatures. Fear paralyzed General Pillow, causing him to retreat to the fort’s temporary safety rather than continue fighting to ultimate victory.

Pillow’s cowardly decision caused 14,000 confederate troops to be captured and imprisoned by General Grant. Many historians consider this a turning point in the Civil War in favor of the union army. Ironically, General Pillow was able to escape during the night and avoid capture. He left subordinate officers behind to face the wrath of General Grant. This story is a classic example of a fearful, toxically, insecure leader.

The Prescription for Fearful Leaders

“If the fear of loss conquers me, the reality of failure will consume me.”

Michael Dooley

The psalmist said: I sought the Lord, and He heard me and delivered me from all my fears (Psalm 34:4 KJV). The prescription for fearful leadership is God-centered leadership. Leaders who pursue God and strive to follow His direction are delivered from fear and filled with confidence. It sounds overly simplistic, but it’s not. It’s common sense once you understand that God knows the future, and if we know God intimately, He guides us into the future. Great leaders aren’t without worries, but their faith in God overwhelms their fear.

Don’t let fear overwhelm your faith; let faith overwhelm your fear (Psalm 34:4).

5. Insecure Leaders Attack Questioners

Confident leaders encourage and invite questions because they relish the opportunity to cast their vision. Conversely, insecure leaders view most questions as insults to their intelligence and authority. Often, insecure leaders will berate, avoid, or ignore questioners even from those closest to them.

Confident leaders encourage and invite questions because they relish the opportunity to cast their vision. Conversely, insecure leaders view most questions as insults to their intelligence and authority.

The Prescription for Leaders Who Attack Questioners

“Of all the skills of leadership, listening is the most valuable — and one of the least understood. Most captains of industry listen only sometimes, and they remain ordinary leaders. But a few, the great ones, never stop listening. That’s how they get word before anyone else of unseen problems and opportunities.”

Peter Nulty

James 1:19 tells us that we should be quick to listen and slow to speak. Even good leaders lose this ability over time if they don’t carefully guard against the mentality of using their authority to silence questions and input from others. But the solution to this problem is simple and self-serving. Leaders who shut down questioners and run over input are robbing themselves of knowledge, and knowledge is power. Allowing others to speak doesn’t mean you have to accept what they say or agree with their advice. If a questioner has a legitimate need for clarification, give it. If a questioner has a real concern, hear it. You can learn a lot from the things people ask and say out loud. Listening gives leaders a distinct advantage in moving forward. Listeners understand trends, anticipate problems, realize needs, inspire loyal followings, and find unusual opportunities.

Leaders who listen understand trends, anticipate problems, realize needs, inspire loyal followings, and find unusual opportunities.

6. Insecure Leaders Rarely Offer Thanks or Congratulations

To the insecure leader, saying thanks is acknowledging they needed help. Giving a compliment distracts from their achievements and spotlights someone else in their way of thinking. They’re uncomfortable with both scenarios, so they rarely say thanks or give genuine compliments. This leaves their team feeling totally unappreciated and disrespected.

The Prescription for Leaders Who Rarely Offer Thanks or Congratulations

“You’ll never be great and ungrateful at the same time.”

Unknown

Learning to express thanks and compliment others when deserved is a sign of strength, not weakness. Rewiring your brain to think this way might be difficult, but it’s necessary. A further benefit of a verbally thankful and complimentary leader is the positive impact on the people around them. Morale is boosted; productivity increases, loyalty skyrockets, and the leader’s visions are carried out faster. Try it, and you’ll see immediate positive results.

Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.

Romans 13:7 ESV

Learning to express thanks and compliment others when deserved is a sign of strength, not weakness.

7. Insecure Leaders Take Credit for Other People’s Work or Ideas

“A strong leader takes blame and gives the credit. A weak leader gives blame and accepts the credit.”

John Wooden

Insecure leaders are more than willing to steal somebody else’s great idea or take credit for others’ accomplishments. Leaders ready to steal credit have allowed their insecurities to turn them into liars and frauds. Any leader that sinks to this level is beyond toxic. They are intentionally venomous and should not be trusted under any circumstances. Run!

The Prescription for Leaders Who Take Credit for Other People’s Work or Ideas

“It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you don’t care who gets the credit.”

Harry S. Truman

A leader willing to lie and steal another person’s credit has no other recourse but to repent before God. And the offending leader must make it right with those they have harmed (Matthew 5:23-24). The Apostle James doesn’t mince words when calling out selfishly ambitious people who play games with the truth. You’ll notice in the text below he calls them unspiritual and demonic. Nothing short of spiritual reconciliation with God and those offended will help a fraudulent leader.

But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

James 3:14-18 ESV

8. Insecure Leaders Shoot Down Good Ideas

When insecure leaders are presented with good or even terrific ideas, they often shoot them down (or steal them, as we covered in the above point). They just can’t stand the thought of someone else having a better idea or solution. This ultra-selfish leadership style harms everyone because it stifles creativity, productivity, ingenuity, and originality. If a leader always shoots down fantastic ideas without a reasonable explanation, they’re leading from insecurity; however, if they have plausible reasons, they probably do not lead from insecurity.

The Prescription for Leaders Who Shoot Down Good Ideas

“Most of the successful people I’ve known are the ones who do more listening than talking.”

Bernard Baruch

The Bible often speaks of obtaining lots of good advice from wise counselors (Proverbs 11:14, Proverbs 12:15, Proverbs 15:22, Proverbs 20:18) before making a decision. Insecure leaders must break the habit of desiring to be the smartest person in the room. Instead, great leaders understand that any organization is built on the successes and intelligence of everyone involved. Understand that an organization that consistently shoots down really good or even terrific ideas without reason will be mediocre at best.

Insecure leaders must break the habit of desiring to be the smartest person in the room. Instead, great leaders understand that any organization is built on the successes and intelligence of everyone involved.

9. Insecure Leaders Run from Needed Confrontation

Most people don’t enjoy confrontation or uncomfortable moments where they look like the bad guy. They want the glory, not the gloom. But insecure leaders take that mentality to a whole new level. They often delegate confrontational moments to their subordinates because they lack the confidence to face a conflict head-on themselves. Or they simply leave problems unsolved, unconfronted, and unresolved rather than face needed conflict. Confrontation avoidance can significantly harm an organization over time.

The Prescription for Confrontation Avoiding Leaders

“Peace is not the absence of conflict, it is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means.”

Ronald Reagan

The goal of all healthy necessary confrontation is to be assertive, not aggressive. At the root of chronic conflict avoidance is the fear of rejection. For many leaders, this is a deeply ingrained fear that’s hard to overcome. But the fear of rejection must be overcome, or it will destroy the leader and the leader’s team. Addressing the fear of confrontation and rejection begins with baby steps. Start by reevaluating self-worth and reimagining outcomes of conflict (many positive things come from necessary conflict).

10. Insecure Leaders are Easily Flattered

A man that flattereth his neighbour spreadeth a net for his feet.

Proverbs 29:5

Flattery is a lie, masquerading as encouragement, from a selfish motive to manipulate the hearer to achieve the flatterer’s covert purpose. Whether or not flattering words have truth in them, their goal is deception. A leader easily seduced by flattery is foolish and will make unwise decisions. Insecure leaders enjoy the temporary buzz flattery produces because it artificially inflates their wounded egos.

Flattery is a lie, masquerading as encouragement, from a selfish motive to manipulate the hearer to achieve the flatterer’s covert purpose. Whether or not flattering words have truth in them, their goal is deception.

The Prescription for Easily Flattered Leaders

“The trouble with most of us is that we’d rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism.”

Norman Vincent Peale

Flattery is the enemy we all love. It feels good going down, but the poison of it doesn’t take long to kick in. That’s why people say flattery is like gum; chew it but don’t swallow it. We shouldn’t believe every good thing we hear about ourselves, nor should we believe every negative thing we hear about ourselves. Learning to overcome flattery’s deceitfulness involves a few paradigm changes: One, learn to value truth over desired truth through prayer. Two, be wary of people who praise excessively. Three, discount those who tear down others to build you up. Four, confront the love of flattery in your own heart and learn to recognize that weakness. When leaders understand their propensity to be manipulated by flattery, they begin to build an immunity to it.

Flattery is the enemy we all love. It feels good going down, but the poison of it doesn’t take long to kick in. That’s why people say flattery is like gum; chew it but don’t swallow it.

We shouldn’t believe every good thing we hear about ourselves, nor should we believe every negative thing we hear about ourselves.

Overcoming flattery: Learn to value truth over desired truth through prayer.

Overcoming flattery: Be wary of people who praise excessively.

Overcoming flattery: Discount those who tear down others to build you up.

Confront the love of flattery in your own heart and learn to recognize that weakness. When leaders understand their propensity to be manipulated by flattery, they begin to build an immunity to it.

The Top 10 Articles of 2020

I’d like to offer my warm thanks for your continued readership and support of the Apostolic Voice blog. And, for those that also listen to the new Apostolic Voice podcast, I’d like to thank you as well. It’s become a tradition at the beginning of each new year to post the top ten articles that trended in the previous year. Last year a few sleeper articles made a surge, and several staple pieces held steady in the rankings. Surprisingly, 2020 was, statistically speaking, our most dynamic year yet. Although, that probably shouldn’t have been a surprise considering all the quarantine time we all endured. I remain humbled that you would read and share my sincere rantings, beliefs, opinions, and insights.

The red marks every area of the globe Apostolic Voice reached in 2020.

For those who have been reading from the beginning, you’ve noticed I’ve made an effort to update and refresh the site. Hopefully, it is more user-friendly and easier to search for past articles. Initially, I intended to write predominantly about current events (and in the beginning, I did), but time has led me to write mostly about timeless truths. I pray you are blessed in this new year.

15 Ways to Win the Battle Within

You can find the Apostolic Voice podcast link based on this article at the bottom of this page.


I like statistics. But I know from the glazed looks people give me when I bring them up that most people aren’t like me. So, rather than bore you with the minutia of details, let’s just say folks are battling depression on an epic scale. Indeed, in general, temptation is an ever-present problem, and even Christians seem to be struggling with feelings of despair. Not to mention other emotional issues like fear, anger, bitterness, unforgiveness, lust (including pornography), greed, envy, jealousy, and the list goes on. And those are just the natural issues that human beings face; demonic attacks are prevalent as well. Sadly, many people don’t even realize they’re entangled in a spiritual battle.

Each of the above problems begins in the mind. Every sin starts with a thought, and if that thought is not dealt with properly, it will produce a sinful action or reaction. The battle for peace is fought in the mind. The battle for joy is fought in the mind. The battle for purity is fought in the mind. Satan engages your mind first because what you think about the most is what you will eventually do. If you engage your mind with darkness, you will be drawn towards darkness. If you engage your mind with righteousness, you will be drawn towards righteousness (Philippians 4:8). That’s what Paul meant when he said, “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind… (Romans 12:2)”. Again, in Ephesians 4:22-24, Paul refers to the mind’s battle in relation to holiness and overcoming the old “sinful” way of life. The old mind produces old sins, but a renewed mind produces holiness. In verse 25, Paul illustrates the first fruit of that new mind is truthfulness with our neighbors. The state of our mind informs the status of our actions. In other words, garbage in, garbage out, and vice versa.

Every sin starts with a thought, and if that thought is not dealt with properly, it will produce a sinful action or reaction.

If you engage your mind with darkness, you will be drawn towards darkness. If you engage your mind with righteousness, you will be drawn towards righteousness (Philippians 4:8).

My personality is very susceptible to depression. That’s not easy to say because many Christians are so used to emotionally faking it that they think they’re making it. They’re kicking the emotional can down the road until the inevitable day of reckoning. Hands down, the number one question posed to me when counseling: How can I win the battle that’s raging in my mind (or some variation of that)? The answer is not a simple one. Most people want a silver bullet that makes all the struggles go away immediately. To be sure, there are powerful offensive weapons, but none of them are lasting without a strong defensive shield. You can rebuke the Devil, but he’ll just come back around if you leave your defenses vulnerable.

Below is a list of fifteen things that will truly guard our minds. Each item listed is a powerful defensive shield for your mind. If you’re looking for a shorter Twitter-friendly list, just know, there are no shortcuts to safety.

1. Get some rest (Psalm 4:8).

Have you ever been so tired you didn’t care about anything anymore? Exhaustion has a way of draining us physically and emotionally. There are times it can’t be avoided, but there are also times when we simply haven’t made rest a priority.

2. Help somebody (Hebrews 13:16).

We should help others because it’s the right thing to do. But there are benefits attached to helping others. It takes our minds off ourselves and our problems. Helping others forces us out of selfish habits and self-destructive thoughts. It’s incredible how quickly our attitude can change when we empty ourselves out in the service of others.

3. Only listen to Christian music.

Fill your mind with godly music that is uplifting. Yep, and the more it talks about Jesus, the better. Listen to it a lot. Nothing has more ability to impact your mind and mood than music. Everything about music is designed to lower your guard and capture your attention. When you fill your mind with sinful lyrics, you’ve opened yourself up to spiritual attack. You’d be hard-pressed to find a popular secular song that doesn’t glorify either casual sex, cursing, violence, drinking, drugs, cheating, lying, greed, lust, godlessness, hopelessness, despair, or divorce. That list could be a lot longer, but you get the idea. By listening to that kind of music, you are handing your mind over to the enemy. If it walks like the world and talks like the world, it probably is the world. Oh, and if you’re in the world, your prayers lose their power: The prayers of a righteous man avail much (James 5:16).

Everything about music is designed to lower your guard and capture your attention. When you fill your mind with sinful lyrics, you’ve opened yourself up to spiritual attack.

By the way, everything listed above applies to all your entertainment choices—everything from books, magazines, movies, television, the internet, games, and more. Surely, you can’t be entertained by filth and wonder why you long for filth. Surely, you can’t watch horror and wonder why you battle anxiety. Surely, you can’t watch (and laugh at) immorality and wonder why you’re full of lust. Clean it up, throw stuff out, make a covenant with your eyes and ears. Take Philippians 4:8 seriously, and you’ll be surprised how quickly your mind will be renewed. Everything else on this list of defenses will be weakened if you regularly subject your eyes and ears to worldly entertainment.

4. Spend time daily reading the Bible.

If you need direction, search the Scriptures. If you need encouragement, search the Scriptures. You need the Word daily. Why would you leave your most significant resource untouched? The word is a lamp unto our feet (Psalm 119:105), which means it protects us from painfully stumbling and falling. But it’s also a sword (Ephesians 6:17), meaning it is our greatest offensive weapon against the enemy. When Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness, his strongest offense and defense was the Word (Luke 4:1-13). If you know what is written in the Word, you will learn how to respond to temptation confidentially.

5. Pray, really pray (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

Sincerely, pray, and ask God for strength. Pray until the Holy Ghost falls. Pray when you don’t feel like praying. That’s usually when you need to pray the most. Pray for the Lord’s will (Luke 22:42, Matthew 6:9-13). Pray your way through the Psalms. It’s good to get alone with God in a private place, but some of my best prayer meetings happened in my car driving down the road. That’s what it means to pray without ceasing, being ready to pray at a moment’s notice.

Don’t just pray when you need something. Pray because you want to be close to God. Put some praise in your prayers. Talk to God about your hopes and dreams, doubts and fears, pains and triumphs, and all the in-between stuff too. We’ve all known people who only called when they needed something. Don’t be that way with God. Be that person who maintains the relationship in the good times and the bad.

Don’t just pray when you need something. Pray because you want to be close to God. Put some praise in your prayers.

6. Remain obedient to the Bible in your personal life (even when no one is looking).

Disobedience invites the demonic (1 Samuel 13:14). Even worse, disobedience stirs God’s wrath (Ephesians 5:6). Disobedient Christians are miserable because they are fighting demons and suffering the Lord’s anger at the same time. Disobedience produces guilt, condemnation, pain, and spiritual resistance. The pain that we suffer while in disobedience is intended to draw us back to repentance. Much like the prodigal son who needed a pig pen before realizing he needed to go back home. If you’re living in disobedience, things will get progressively worse until you repent and make things right with God.

The pain that we suffer while in disobedience is intended to draw us back to repentance. Much like the prodigal son who needed a pig pen before realizing he needed to go back home.

7. Spend time talking with godly, Holy Ghost filled people who will encourage you, not discourage you (Proverbs 13:20-25).

Choose your inner circle wisely. Those closest to you will impact your attitude and your mind the most. Your most intimate friendships should not be with unwise or ungodly people. Be kind to everyone, but your deep friendships should be with Holy Ghost filled encouragers who aren’t afraid to tell you the truth even when it hurts.

Your most intimate friendships should not be with unwise or ungodly people. Be kind to everyone, but your deep friendships should be with Holy Ghost filled encouragers who aren’t afraid to tell you the truth even when it hurts.

8. Avoid people, places, and things that will trigger a spiritual attack, temptation, or depression (when possible).

Eve would have been far less likely to eat the fruit if she hadn’t been near the fruit. The serpent didn’t show up until she showed up where she shouldn’t have been. Don’t set yourself up for failure by hanging around people and places that pull your mind in dangerous directions. Some things aren’t sinful by themselves, but they have emotional connections in your mind that trigger unhealthy thoughts. Avoid those things. For example, I have a friend who was addicted to heroin before he received the Holy Ghost. Every time he shot up, he would listen to instrumental jazz music and wait for the drugs to take over. Whenever he hears jazz music, all kinds of negative emotions come crashing down on him. If possible, he avoids jazz. That’s called wisdom.

Eve would have been far less likely to eat the fruit if she hadn’t been near the fruit. Don’t set yourself up for failure by hanging around people and places that pull your mind in dangerous directions.

Some things aren’t sinful by themselves, but they have emotional connections in your mind that trigger unhealthy thoughts. Avoid those things.

9. Get to church as soon as possible and grab the altar until God touches you (Psalm 84:3, Psalm 92:13).

There’s a reason we are instructed not to forsake the gathering together of godly people (Hebrews 10:25). It’s a blessing for our benefit (Mark 2:27). Even the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) is written in the plural, not the singular: Give us this day our daily bread. We thrive as a community of believers. We were not made to walk alone. Faith feeds faith. Worship breeds worship. Joy is contagious. When we are weak, we need fellow believers’ strengths, and when we are strong weak believers need our encouragement.

We were not made to walk alone. Faith feeds faith. Worship breeds worship. Joy is contagious. When we are weak, we need fellow believers’ strengths, and when we are strong weak believers need our encouragement.

There is safety in numbers. The Bible refers to Satan as a lion looking for a person to devour (1 Peter 5:8). Lions are known for stalking enormous prey. They follow a herd and wait for one member of the pack to lag behind or become separated from the others. That’s when the lion pounces. A herd can defend itself from the lion’s attack, but a single animal becomes an easy victim. Years of ministry have taught me that many people avoid church when struggling to win the battle for their minds. That’s the worst thing a person can do in that situation. If you have to take a boat, train, plane, or walk in the rain: do what you have to do to get to church.

10. Worship the Lord all the time, even when you’re alone (Psalm 34:1).

This one might sound silly at first, but you should spontaneously worship the Lord throughout your day. If you love and appreciate the Lord, you won’t wait until Sunday to tell Him.

11. Add fasting to your prayers.

In Matthew 17:14-21, a father brought his demon-possessed son to Jesus for deliverance. The King James Version refers to the son as a “lunatic,” inferring that the possession and oppression were so strong it had destroyed the boy’s mind. The father had already taken his son to the disciples, but they could not cast the demon out. Of course, Jesus cast the devil out immediately, leaving the disciples wondering why they had been powerless. In verse 19, Jesus rebukes them for their unbelief (lack of faith), and in verse 21, He reveals the reason for their unbelief; lack of prayer combined with fasting. This demon was so strong that it required prayer and fasting to overpower it.

There are situations, attacks, oppressions, and spirits that require prayer and fasting to overcome. Fasting brings our mind and body into subjection. It cultivates spiritual awareness and sensitivity. Our mind is sharpened, and our spirit is quickened when we fast. And yet, this is the most underutilized tool in most people’s spiritual belt.

There are situations, attacks, oppressions, and spirits that require prayer and fasting to overcome. Fasting brings our mind and body into subjection. It cultivates spiritual awareness and sensitivity.

12. Keep a prayer journal.

For me, this has been one of the most helpful things I have ever done. I write thoughts, prayer requests, questions, goals, hopes, dreams, study findings, and testimonies. The Bible speaks of overcoming by the word of testimony (Revelation 12:11). We humans have a terrible habit of fixating on what we need God to do and forgetting what he has already done. This forgetfulness leads to anxiety. Remembering what God has done builds faith.

We humans have a terrible habit of fixating on what we need God to do and forgetting what he has already done. This forgetfulness leads to anxiety. Remembering what God has done builds faith.

13. Study a specific subject in the Bible.

Studying the Bible is different than just daily Bible reading. Find a subject that you don’t fully understand dig deeply until you understand it inside and out. Knowledge is power in the Spirit (Proverbs 24:5). Satan operates best in confusion.

Find a subject that you don’t fully understand dig deeply until you understand it inside and out. Knowledge is power in the Spirit (Proverbs 24:5). Satan operates best in confusion.

14. Stay busy.

Boredom is the Devil’s playground (1 Timothy 5:13). Too much free time will create a vacuum that trouble quickly fills.

Too much free time will create a vacuum that trouble quickly fills.

15. Listen to a lot of good anointed Apostolic preaching.

I highly recommend downloading the Holy Ghost Radio app and the Revival Radio app. They’re free, and they’re fantastic. You can catch my church Podcast here or on iTunes here. Of course, I’ve got to plug the Apostolic Voice podcast, but there are many great podcasts these days: My brother Nathan hosts a weekly podcast called Noteworthy, and it’s incredibly encouraging. Also, check out The Restorationist by Adam Shaw, Kingdom Speak by Pastor Daniel McKillop, and Simplify by LJ Harry.

Final Thought

The Devil attacks people’s minds immediately after powerful spiritual events. It was right after Jesus’ baptism that He was carried into the wilderness and tempted by the Devil (Matthew 4:1-11). There are countless other biblical examples, but you can be prepared and respond appropriately if you know this to be the case.

The Devil attacks people’s minds immediately after powerful spiritual events. It was right after Jesus’ baptism that He was carried into the wilderness and tempted by the Devil (Matthew 4:1-11).

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10 Signs You Might Be Guilty of Self-Idolatry

What Is Idolatry?

Like so many things in Scripture, we can trace much of theology all the way back to the book of Genesis. Self-idolatry or self-worship is no exception. The serpent enticed Eve with words of self-exaltation: “For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods…” (Genesis 3:5). Becoming a god unto ourselves has always been the greatest temptation that Satan lays before humankind. He subtly emboldens us to take the authority that belongs to God into our own hands. We often define this as rebellion, but it is far more than just rebellion; it is self-idolatry.

Becoming a god unto ourselves has always been the greatest temptation that Satan lays before humankind. He subtly emboldens us to take the authority that belongs to God into our own hands.

In essence, anything that comes between the one true God and us is idolatry (1 Corinthians 10:7-22). We could also narrow it down even further and say that anything we love more than the Lord is an idol. God demands that we offer ourselves to Him as living sacrifices for His glory (Romans 12:1-2). Anything that hinders that self-sacrifice becomes idolatrous.

Anything that comes between the one true God and us is idolatry. anything we love more than the Lord is an idol. Anything that hinders that self-sacrifice becomes idolatrous.

The Idolatry of Godless Wisdom

Leaning on our wisdom is another form of self-idolatry (Romans 1:20-25). Paul speaks of those who hold the truth in unrighteousness (Romans 1:18). They suppress the truth with their sense of self-righteousness. This kind of self-idolatry leads to worthless thinking, and God eventually gives this type of person over to complete foolishness and depravity (Romans 1:21-30).

An Idolatrous Conundrum!

Psalm 115 is probably the most poetically profound condemnation of idolatry found in Scripture. In an epic biblical smackdown, the psalmist describes idols as useless and those who make them and trust them as being just as ridiculous (Psalm 115:4-8). In other words, idolators become eerily like their idols. They make the idols and become like their own creation. They trust in idols and become like the demonic idols they trust. This begs the question: Are self-idolators worshipping themselves? Or, have they just worshipped another idol for so long they have become like the ungodly object of their affection? Either way, it would be wise for us all to recognize the signs of self-idolatry and remove any hint of it that might be in our hearts.

Idolators become eerily like their idols. They make the idols and become like their own creation.

10 Signs You Might Be Guilty of Self-Idolatry

  1. You search your heart before you search the Bible (Jeremiah 17:9, Psalm 18:30).
  2. Your feelings matter more to you than your faithfulness (Proverbs 28:26, Luke 12:42).
  3. You are overly obsessed with outward beauty and vanity (Jeremiah 4:30, Proverbs 31:30, Galatians 5:19-30, 1 Peter 3:3-4, 1 Timothy 2:9-10, Deuteronomy 22:5, Leviticus 19:28, Isaiah 3:16-26, Exodus 20:26).
  4. You routinely reject Apostolic pastoral authority (Hebrews 13:7, Hebrews 13:17, 1 Thessalonians 5:12).
  5. You crave flattery but recoil at conviction (Proverbs 27:6).
  6. You lack compassion for those less fortunate than you (Colossians 3:12).
  7. You maintain a double standard; you consider some things acceptable for you but not for others (Proverbs 20:10, Romans 2:11).
  8. You use and manipulate people while simultaneously wanting their admiration (Luke 11:42).
  9. Your prayers are primarily focused on your own wants and needs; you rarely pray selflessly for others (Philippians 2:3-4).
  10. You view church as being all about your blessing; your opinions, wants, and needs are always the main focus (Philippians 2:3-4).

Idolatry Inside the Church

I know some of you are thinking that idolatry is an outside problem. No. The worst versions of idolatry are inside problems: Inside the “saints” and the Church. If you study the Old and the New Testaments, you’ll find the most grievous forms of idolatry came from within the camps of God’s people. It’s time to stop viewing idolatry as a problem far removed from the Church or something that was just an Old Testament problem. Idolatry is alive and well today. Thankfully, God is still on the throne, and He still draws near to those who seek Him and Him alone (James 4:8).

The worst versions of idolatry are inside problems: Inside the “saints” and the Church. If you study the Old and the New Testaments, you’ll find the most grievous forms of idolatry came from within the camps of God’s people.


Heroic Leadership – 10 Lessons

Like most little boys, my son is fascinated with superheroes. Maybe that’s why I’m writing an article about the parallels between leadership and ambiguous fictional superheroes. For the most part, I’m critical of pop culture. However, the cultural fascination with fictitious superheroes (it’s a multi-billion dollar industry) is interesting from an anthropological perspective because it demonstrates that people have an innate desire to see good triumph over evil in spectacular fashion.

People are fascinated by the idea of a super savior that defeats evil and overcomes extreme obstacles. From here I could launch into a diatribe about the disturbing trend towards the cultural celebration of “bad guys” winning, and the glorification of evil, but I’ll refrain.

Oddly enough, fictitious superheroes often instigate seemingly innocuous conversations with my son about very deep topics. For example, the reality of good and evil, the importance of doing the right thing even when it’s hard, doing what’s right even when everyone is against you, and how to be a leader. That might sound silly to you, but those are things I want my son to take seriously.

During one of those “deep” conversations, it dawned on me that most people want to grow up and be heroic. Sadly, age and the strains of real life have a way of tainting that desire if we’re not careful, but the desire is there somewhere. And that brings me to the topic of leadership. Ask any good leader and they will tell you that they were drawn to leadership because they wanted to help people. This is never truer than in the case of pastoral leadership. Godly ministers desperately want to see people saved. That’s our number one goal. I recently spoke with the CEO of a billion-dollar medical device company and I asked what drew him to the industry. His answer was typical; he wanted to help people.

Obviously, there is an evil side of the leadership coin. Those are the Hitler’s, Stalin’s, false prophets, and wolves in sheep clothing kind of leaders. But I’m writing to the “good guy” leaders today. The ones who desperately want to make a difference and truly help people. But maybe leadership isn’t everything you thought it would be. Maybe leading has left you feeling more and more jaded. These ten “superhero” inspired leadership lessons are for you.

  1. Heroic leadership is a lonely business.

Heroic leadership will often cause you to be misunderstood and mistreated. Doing the right thing means swimming against the current of popular culture and failed methodology. Heroic leaders must be prepared to endure times of loneliness and isolation.

  1. Heroic leadership is a dangerous business.

When you shine a light on evil, expect evil to retaliate. When you challenge the status quo, expect the status quo to retaliate.

  1. Heroic leadership is often a thankless job.

Everyone wants to be appreciated. Everyone wants to be respected, but heroic leadership does not lead for accolades. Heroic leadership leads to help people. Jesus spoke of avoiding the pharisaical spirit that does good deeds just to be seen (Matthew 6:1-16). Heroic leaders don’t need a pat on the back to keep doing the right thing.

  1. Every heroic leader has an inner villain.

In the biblical sense, this is the epic struggle between the Spirit and the flesh. Even heroic leaders have inner struggles and temptations that constantly threaten to overthrow righteousness. Our villainous nature must be crucified every single day or it will gain dominance in our lives.

  1. Every heroic leader has a super-nemesis.

It’s tempting for heroic leaders to view wicked people as the enemy, but this is not the Christian worldview that God wants us to hold. We don’t wrestle with flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:12). There is a super villain named Lucifer who is the arch enemy of everything that is good. Knowing the source of evil is paramount if you are going to effectively combat evil.

  1. Every heroic leader has unshakable core convictions, values, and drive that sustains and propels them against overwhelming odds.

Heroic leaders have solid principles that are unchanging. Genuine righteous values don’t shift with circumstances. Adversity exposes cowardly leadership. Cowardly leadership sacrifices values on the altars of convenience, popularity, and self-preservation.

  1. At the end of the day, heroic leaders take off the mask and look like everybody else.

Heroic leaders wear a mask of professionalism. Heroic leaders can’t be everybody’s buddy or best friend, they are leaders. I know the big buzz word these days is “real”. Everyone is talking about being real, authentic, and genuine. Some of that is good. I get it. But often, just being “real” is code for lack of composure. Heroic leaders aren’t fake or plastic, but they do maintain composure, high standards, and a work ethic that sets them apart from others.

But when heroic leaders get home they are tired and human just like everybody else. They need genuine connections, love, and relationships. They need interaction with their family and close friends. Heroic leaders must learn to let down their guard at home or risk alienating their deepest, most important relationships.

  1. Heroic leaders aren’t trying to be heroes.

There’s a difference between being a wanna-be hero and simply being committed to doing what is needed, necessary, and right. Heroic leaders are like David when he saw Goliath intimidating the entire army of Israel. David wasn’t trying to be a hero when he faced Goliath, he just couldn’t stand by and let evil win.

  1. Heroic leaders always have a kryptonite that the enemy will try to exploit.

Even heroic leaders have a weakness (or two, or three). Knowing what your kryptonite is and learning how to deal with it is critical.

  1. Heroic leaders sometimes lose their way, but they face their failures and make things right.

In the quest to do right, heroic leaders sometimes lose focus or let the ends justify the means. They falter, they fail, they miss the mark, they err, they misjudge. That’s because they are human beings. However, heroic leaders know how to say, “I was wrong.” They learn how to say, “I’m sorry.” They face their failures and own their mistakes. They don’t shift blame or pass the buck. Owning and correcting mistakes is one of the most heroic things a person can do.

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Consistency – 16 Keys To Outstanding Leadership

When it comes to leadership of any kind, consistency is a vital component of success. Often, highly creative personalities struggle with consistency, severely limiting what would otherwise be a dynamic leadership style. Of course, that’s a generalization, and leaders of all types struggle to be consistent. People are drawn to consistency, but it takes time to demonstrate real and effective consistency in leadership. For example, studies of churches, businesses, and corporations indicate that it takes roughly five years for the organization to hit its full growth potential when a new leader arrives. Why? Because quality consistency in leadership, by definition, cannot be modeled overnight. Below are sixteen key areas where consistency makes the difference between bad, good, and outstanding leadership.

1. Consistency of Time

  1. Understanding the value of your time and everyone else’s time matters. If you disrespect other people’s time, they will eventually disrespect you. Be on time, be timely, be efficient, and as often as possible, be brief. If you don’t habitually waste people’s time, they’ll forgive you when you need to take their time. All great leaders understand the value of managing time.

2. Consistency of Dependability

  1. If you say it, mean it. If you mean it, do it. If people can’t depend on you, they won’t trust you, and if they don’t trust you, outstanding leadership is not possible. Inevitably, you will inadvertently let someone down. Don’t be too proud to apologize.

3. Consistency of Emotions & Temperament

  1. Okay, so we all have mood swings. Most great leaders feel things intensely, and that’s a good thing. It channels energy and propels creativity. But drastic emotional fluctuations left unchecked hurt people. People shouldn’t have to wonder if you’re going to randomly lose your temper, cry without provocation, or become morose. People will excuse a temperamental leader for a while (especially if they’re mega-talented, a super-genius, or ultra charismatic), but eventually, they’ll abandon ship, searching for less drama.

4. Consistency of Study

  1. Leaders never stop learning, and learners never stop studying. Once you think you know all you need to know, you are arrogant and irrelevant.

5. Consistency of Routine

  1. I’m not suggesting that leaders should do the same thing, at the same time, every day. But some level of routine must be realized, or a lifestyle of consistency is not possible.

6. Consistency of Organization

  1. It can vary in style, intensity, and beauty; but you must be organized and know how to organize others.

7. Consistency of Spiritual Discipline

  1. For ministerial leadership, this goes without saying. But regardless, strong spiritual disciplines of Bible reading, prayer, and devotion strengthen every area of a leader’s life.

8. Consistency of Kindness

  1. Be kind all the time (including to those who can do nothing for you). Some leaders erroneously believe that their other strengths make this unnecessary. Not so. Kindness is not weakness. Harshness is not strength. It takes more effort to be consistently kind than visa verse. An unkind leader will negate all other skills. And yes, you can be kind and authoritative at the same time.

9. Consistency of Authenticity

  1. To phrase it another way, always be genuine and real. Be transparent; that doesn’t mean that you have to wear your heart on your sleeve or air all the dirty laundry. But remember, authenticity is the opposite of fakery. Be open, be honest, be humble, be authentic.

10. Consistency of Integrity

  1. Integrity is one of those words with a broad spectrum of meaning that can be hard to pin down. By default, we usually define integrity as honesty, and that is correct but incomplete. In the tech world, they use the term “integrity checking,” meaning they are analyzing the data to ensure that it lacks corruption and maintains internal integrity. Engineers use the term “structural integrity” about structurally sound buildings. Governments use the term “territorial integrity” when describing a nation or region that is undivided and sovereign. With that in mind, a leader with integrity is continually checking the areas of his life that others can’t see for corrupted data, maintaining structural soundness, and guarding against divisions. The integrity of your organization will be a reflection of your virtue.

11. Consistency of Core Values

  1. Once you have identified, defined, and clearly articulated your core values, you must consistently implement those values. A core value is not a core value if it fluctuates. Your personal and corporate core values must be united and inform every action and decision from the top down. It would be best if you firmly believed in your core values, or you will change them when things get tough. Without core values, you become a slave to flaky emotions and the fickleness of fads. Everything you do flows from your core values.

12. Consistency of Maturation & Growth

  1. Look at where you are compared to where you were five years ago. Go ahead. Hopefully, you have grown and matured personally. Don’t buy the lie that you’ve peaked or plateaued. You must model personal growth and maturation. Set goals, stretch your limits, dream big, get better, and never settle for personal stagnation. If you do, they will too. Also, you cannot mature if you are not self-aware. Self-awareness is literally one of the most defining aspects of a great leader. If you think you’re great when you’re not, you’ll never work to get better. If you think your weakness is your strength, you’ll never mature. Find ways to evaluate yourself, seek counsel, seek brutally honest mentors, take the blinders off, listen to constructive criticism, expose yourself to leaders who inspire you to stretch. You will find the motivation to grow.

13. Consistency of Fairness

  1. Treat yourself and others fairly. It’s really that simple. Leaders who hold one standard for this person and another for that person lose everyone’s respect over time.

14. Consistency of Creativity

  1. Creativity is hard. Admittedly, it comes more naturally for some. However, even for those who are wired to be creative, it takes hard work. I know it sounds antithetical to this article’s central theme, but predictability is the enemy of growth when it comes to creativity. Have dreams, use imagination, and be original.

15. Consistency of Healthy Change & Adjustment

  1. Again, I know it sounds strange to write an article about consistency and tell people to be willing to make changes and adjustments. Paradox? No. You can be consistent in every area mentioned above and yet remain flexible when and where necessary. Great leaders know when to throw out bad ideas and implement better ones. Great leaders know when to make small tweaks and significant adjustments when needed. Inflexible leaders crack underneath the pressure of constantly changing demands and environments. Not all change is healthy, but total unwillingness to adjust is always deadly.

16. Consistency of Humility

  1. Outstanding leaders remain great by remaining humble. Arrogance and pride not only repel people but it produces sloppiness and intense feelings of entitlement. Entitled leaders are not only toxically obnoxious, but their followers emulate their example. Eventually, the entire organization from the top down expects everyone else to do everything else. Chaos and unproductiveness always plague entitled leadership. Many leaders begin with humility and gradually become arrogant. Carefully guard against the drift towards pride that power and success often set into motion. Furthermore, a leader doesn’t have to be wildly successful to be prideful; even sub-par leaders often struggle with arrogance.

For the record, I did not write this article from the perspective of a great leader lecturing less great leaders. At any given time, I’m working to be more consistent in at least five of these areas. Often, I’m more consistent at being inconsistent. In keeping with key 9, you should know that I am weakest in 5, 6, 9, and 15. 

Ryan French

I’m A Loser, And You Can Be One Too (How I Lost 50 Pounds)

Hi. My name is Ryan and I’m a loser. Specifically, I’ve lost 50 pounds over the last 10 months.  If I can do it you can do it too (relax, there’s no sales pitch embedded in this article). I’ve really hesitated to write about this subject because it is such a drastic departure from my usual writings, and because it is such a deeply personal topic. Having said that, I find myself answering the same questions over and over again about my weight loss. Overwhelmingly, people simply want to know the magic secret to quick weight loss, and that leads me to the first lesson I had to learn on my journey to losing 50 pounds.

There is no magic secret to quick weight loss! Ok. So there are unhealthy ways to lose a quick few pounds here and there. Usually, they are “gone today and back tomorrow” kinds of pounds that leave us feeling unhealthier than before we started. Pills that make your hands shake and your chest hurt, or diet plans that work but don’t create sustainable lifestyles like the Adkins diet or the many juice diets. Like millions of other people, I’ve tried gobs of those schemes over the years but they failed me miserably in the end. Sustainable weight loss is not an overnight process or a one-time commitment; it is a lifestyle change.

I’m not a health nut or an exercise enthusiast. By nature, I’m a couch potato. Most of my favorite activities involve sitting down. I’m also not one of those people who hate unhealthy foods and enjoy kale (or any of the other foul tasting health craze foods). I like carbs, butter, and Blue Bell ice cream as much as the next guy (or gal). Neither do I think the whole world should be skinny and obsessed with jogging. However, as a 31-year-old man who has already undergone four open-heart surgeries, I do want to be healthy and live to see my children grow up and hopefully their children too.

Now that we have established that there is no magic weight loss pill, allow me to share with you the basics of how I lost 50 pounds and a few tips that may inspire you too.

Calorie counting. This is the most well-balanced way to safely and sustainably lose weight. Calorie counting is incredibly simple and yet extremely hard at the same time. I don’t think I could effectively calorie count in a pre-smartphone world. At the beginning of my weight loss journey, I downloaded the free app called MyFitnessPal (there are all kinds of other great free calorie counting apps available as well), and it really made the calorie counting process less obnoxious. You simply input your height, weight, etc. and the app tells you how many calories you should consume per day depending on how many pounds you want to lose each month.

Count every calorie. The most difficult thing about calorie counting is being honest with yourself about what and how much you eat at each meal. When I first started I was shocked by how many calories I was consuming per meal. The great thing about calorie counting is that you can technically eat whatever you want. Technically, you can have french fries but you find yourself drastically reducing portions in order to stay within your calorie allowance. In other words, you naturally eat healthier in order to eat more. For example, a handful of french fries contains far more calories than a big bag of baked potato chips, so I usually choose more chips over fewer fries.

The key to being successful with calorie counting is to actually count every calorie even when you know that you’ve blown it (and you will blow it). The temptation will be to not input your calories when you know you’ve really gone over your allotted number for the day. However, that moment of truth is very important. Looking at it and seeing it for yourself will help keep you motivated and on track. Also, a day or two of not counting because of excuses quickly becomes weeks and months. Make counting your calories a daily habit (a lifestyle).

Count your calories before your meal whenever possible. If you’re like the average American you do a lot of eating out and it’s important to calculate those calories before you eat, otherwise you’ll choose your meal, eat it, and then find out that you can’t eat dinner because you just ate all your calories in one sitting. At first, this will be very hard, very inconvenient, and very obnoxious but as time goes by it will become second nature. In fact, after a while, you’ll know by memory how many calories certain foods contain and the process will flow naturally. You’ll be able to count and no one will even know that you’re counting.

If it’s not awesome, don’t eat it. That’s become a new theme in my life. I was one of those people who loved to eat just for the sake of eating. I would eat huge portions of things that I didn’t even enjoy all that much. Calorie counting makes you a selective and picky eater. I still splurge and have plenty of days where I eat way more calories than I should, but I don’t splurge on things that aren’t awesome. I don’t splurge for the sake of splurging. If I blow it I want it to be worth it. Whenever you’re tempted to splurge, ask yourself this question, “Is this something awesome, or will I just regret wasting calories on it later?” Of course, it goes without saying that if you indulge more than you abstain you won’t lose weight. So splurge within reason and splurge selectively.

If you know you’re going to blow it fast until that meal. Most people have a social calendar that requires them to attend meals where they are not in control of the menu and it would be rude to not eat what is provided. This is a regular occurrence for me, and I have found that if I know that I have a calorie busting meal scheduled into my day I fast up until and sometimes after that meal, or at the very least I severely restrict my intake.

Managing calories must become a mindset. What I’ve been describing up until this point is really just having an overall understanding of what and how much you intake on a daily basis. It’s not that we can’t snack or eat three square meals a day, it’s just that we have to manage amounts, which makes us pickier and choosier. This leads nicely to my next weight loss journey truth.

Not everyone will be supportive of your weight loss journey. Ok. So most people are supportive of the idea of their friends and family losing weight and being healthier but if it inconveniences or hinders their lifestyle in any way, they often become frustrated and sometimes even hostile to the process. This is probably one of the most difficult aspects of making a lifestyle change. Do it anyway. As you make progress and prove that your new lifestyle is more than just a fad they will get on board (if they are a true friend).

Cardio exercise will help you lose those pounds faster and allow you to eat more (it’s a win-win situation). I’m not talking about lifting weights or bulking up, I’m simply talking about speed walking, 30 minutes on a stationary bike, or something like that to get your blood flowing. You can certainly still lose the weight without the exercise if you just count calories, but when you do regular light exercises, multiple times a week, you can input those into your calorie counting app, and for every calorie that you burn you can eat an extra calorie that day (if you burn 300 calories speed walking you can eat 300 extra calories that day guilt free). The basic idea is to speed up your metabolism and your body will actually burn more calories throughout the day. Think of exercise as a mechanism that ignites a calorie burning oven. I didn’t start using the stationary bike (my exercise of choice) until about the halfway point of my weight loss journey, and the difference was drastic. I went from losing about a half a pound a week to losing a whole pound a week.

Do not let your failures be final. Millions of people give up on their weight loss goals because of one day or one week of dieting failures. Expect to mess up and plan to get back up. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Also, don’t be discouraged when you don’t see immediate results. Usually, visible results are about a month delayed (if you have a month of diet perfection you won’t see those results until about four weeks later).

You will feel better long before you look better. This is either good news or bad news depending on your perspective.

Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Not to over spiritualize weight loss, but as I have learned to exercise self-control in my eating habits it has been easier to exhibit self-control in other areas of my life as well.

Try to make it a goal to not eat after a certain time in the evening. Certainly, there will be exceptions to this some days of the week (probably because of social calendars), but try to set a time (maybe 7pm or 8pm) where you simply will not eat after that point no matter what. This will give your body plenty of time to digest your meals and keep you from sleeping on a full stomach and bogging your metabolism down.

Good news! Once you reach your weight loss goal (and you must set a goal) you get to eat more calories per day. That’s right. The number of calories that you can eat to simply maintain your weight is substantially more than you can eat if you are trying to lose weight. And after an extended period of time eating less than your body needs, eating just enough will seem like a feast. I promise.

If I can lose 50 pounds you can too. I mean that sincerely. I don’t have super willpower or exceptional health savvy. I’ve never been nor am I now athletic, naturally active, or extremely outdoorsy. I’m not particularly fond of fruits, veggies, or other healthy foods. I love all the bad stuff like cheese, soda, butter, bread, anything fried, pizza and the list could go on and on. To top it all off, I really don’t enjoy exercise either. But I do enjoy feeling healthy and knowing that I am doing all that I can to ensure that I will live a full life with my little family.