Personal Direction for 2016

It occurred to me that I updated my Facebook readers of my publishing plans for 2016, but did not post an update on my blog, so here goes. First of all, Happy New Year! I trust the year has gotten off to a good start for you and that you are pursuing purpose and fruitfulness in these first days. I am starting the year off with a personal fast to set my course for the year, and to seek the Lord's guidance on many issues.

As you may know, I began a publishing company last year called Urban Press. Business is good, and right now I am in the final edits of four manuscripts that Urban Press will publish. That''s about 650 pages of writing that I am juggling between the four works, and it's been both a challenge and a privilege to help shape the four narratives of the four authors.

I began teaching again for a new semester last week, and this semester I will teach History of Leadership, Leadership and Strategy, and the Pentateuch, as well as oversee two final projects for two separate Master's-level leadership classes. On February 25, I will be part of a team returning to Kenya to reconnect with our work there.

I decided to stop two things as 2016 began and one of them was my daily devotional that I have written every day for the last seven years (the other was a Saturday morning radio show here locally). The good news is that each one of those days can be found on my personal blog, if you still want to access something to stimulate your daily Bible study. Simply go to my site, look down the right side, and you will see a link for each year's devotional - Daily Dose, Leadership Walk, Life Matters, What Would Jesus Ask?, and Purpose Pearls. Those represent about 1,800 daily devotional entries, so I am sure you can find something there you like.

In a few weeks, I am going to experiment with a new devotional format, and that will be video. I hope to launch a daily video devotional, but I have to figure out the logistics and how exactly I will do that. I assume I will post the link on this site where you can watch. My thought right now is to go back and do What Would Jesus Ask You Today? in this first video series. All that is subject to change as I seek the Lord.

Of course, you can access all my material in book form by purchasing any devotional from Amazon. All my books are in Kindle and paper format, so you can carry one with you in your briefcase or in your e-reader. I am working on three personal projects right now: a 20th-anniversary revision of Life is a Gold Mine: Can You Dig It?; Unlocking the Power of Your Productivity; and Your Life Matters: Daily Reflections from the Book of Psalms. Those projects are part of the reason I stopped publishing a daily devotional this year, for I am starting each day by working on my own material before I move on to teaching or editing other people's works.

Thank you for bearing with me in this transitional period. It will take some time for me to find a new work rhythm, but I am confident it will come with God's help and direction. My eyes are fixed on him as we start a new year, and I know He will lead and guide. If you have any thoughts, questions, or impressions of the direction I should take, please feel free to contact me at johnstanko@gmail.com. Thanks for your support, and please also let me know if I can help you in your own quest for a purposeful life.


W51D5 - Personal Development

"Praise be to the Lord my Rock, who trains my hands
for war, my fingers for battle" - Psalm 144:1.

David was a leader in Israel who began his career as a warrior, taking down Goliath. Then he led troops in battle, which led to his fame and King Saul's jealousy. After that he led a band of misfits as Saul pursued David to kill him. Then David became king of the tribe of Judah, eventually all of Israel. David recognized it was God Himself who first trained him as a warrior in preparation to be king. That led David to praise the Lord his Rock. Leaders must develop themselves for whatever role God wants them to play, but they must recognize that God directs their development program. This realization should lead them to worship the Lord as the source of their development and ability to lead.

LEADERSHIP STEP: Today's Step is to determine what your area of expertise is as a leader. For David, it was for war; what is for you? Is it technical expertise? People skills? Finance? Cross-cultural work? Training? Communication? Once your identify those areas, then you must pray and ask God for His help and grace. Also ask Him to show you what you can do and where you can go to become the best 'you' that you can be. Don't leave your development to chance.


W46D5 - Personal Development

"And the word of the Lord came again to Zechariah:
'This is what the Lord Almighty said: ‘Administer true
justice; show mercy and compassion to one another.
Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner
or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other'" - Zechariah 7:8-10.

Personal development involves spiritual growth and development. In the verses above, the Lord spoke to His people through the prophet and outlined His plan for their development. That plan included: 1) dispensing true justice; 2) showing mercy to others; 3) being moved by compassion; 4) helping the helpless; 5) empowering the powerless; and 6) avoiding plots and plans that do harm to others. Leaders should adopt this outline as a list of personal values they can pursue and express that will make their leadership more tender and sensitive to the needs of other people.

LEADERSHIP STEP: Your Step today is to lay out a plan that includes the points mentioned in today's verses as your leadership development. For today, focus on one of the six points in today's commentary and think of ways you can develop that particular area or practice. For example, if you choose point six, consider how painful it is to 'hatch' plans that affect people's lives without their input - and therefore determine to be more inclusive in your communication with others.


W41D5 - Personal Development

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
 your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well" - Psalm 139:14.

This verse does not just pertain to one's physical being - anatomy, life systems, organs and skeleton. It describes a human's personality, intellectual and emotional makeup as well. Some people try to change how they look and act because they are convinced that there are serious flaws in both. There may be, but they may also be exactly as God intended them to be. What God is mostly concerned with renewing or changing is one's thinking, which will transform those areas that do need changed while enhancing and maximizing the characteristics that are an important part of each individual's God-designed personality and physical appearance.

LEADERSHIP STEP: Your Step today is to read Romans 12:1-2 and remind yourself that your main focus for leadership and personal development is your thinking. If you can change your thinking, you can change your behaviors in any area, and bring about personal transformation that will enhance your leadership effectiveness. Where is your thinking most deficient and holding you back? Where finances are concerned? Public speaking? Learning new skills?


W36D5 - Personal Development

"Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good
health and that all may go well with you,
even as your soul is getting along well" - 3 John 2.

The writer was not just concerned with the reader's spiritual well-being, but also the reader's physical health. Leaders often encounter stressful situations that require many hours of attention and work. It is easy to allow physical health to deteriorate under those conditions, but leaders need all the energy and stamina they can muster to produce and maintain excellence on the job. This includes exercise, having regular medical checkups, eating properly and well, getting enough rest, doing fun things, and maintaining healthy relationships. And one thing a leader must especially watch and maintain is an ideal weight for his or her age and body frame.

LEADERSHIP STEP: Don't allow the pressures of and time invested in leadership to destroy your health. Your Step today is to assess your physical condition and health habits. Is your current weight what you desire or do you need to go on a diet and lose some pounds. Are you eating the right foods for you? What about your exercise program? Are you taking time to stay in shape? Do you have a hobby that allows you to step away from work and do something you enjoy?


W31D5 - Personal Development

"Be strong and courageous, because
you will lead these people to inherit the
land I swore to their ancestors to give them" - Joshua 1:6.

Since leaders are going to take people places they could not go without them, those leaders must prepare themselves for the difficulties of the journey. The first qualification or characteristic is strength, which includes mental, physical and emotional. The strength must be for a purpose, which of course is to reach a destination many thought impossible. The second is courage. Leaders cannot faint along the way, but must face the unknown and the intimidating with resolve and wisdom, for sometimes those leaders need the courage to change course or admit mistakes.

LEADERSHIP STEP: Your Step today is to consider strength and courage and how they factor into your leadership effectiveness. Start with strength. Do you have the strength to say 'no,' to be quiet and to persevere in the midst of difficulties? Then go on to courage. Can you reflect on personal examples when you exhibited courage? Where might your courage be lacking now and what may it be costing your organization or your personal development?


W26D5 - Personal Development

“When Moses was forty years old, he decided to visit
his own people, the Israelites. He saw one of them being
mistreated by an Egyptian, so he went to his defense and
avenged him by killing the Egyptian. Moses thought that
his own people would realize that God was using him to
rescue them, but they did not. The next day Moses came
upon two Israelites who were fighting. He tried to reconcile
them by saying, ‘Men, you are brothers; why do you want
to hurt each other?’" - Acts 7:23-26.

Moses knew he was the rescuer of Israel. In Moses' younger days, however, he was full of himself and his own ways. Just in these few verses, we see that Moses 'decided, went, avenged, killed, thought, came upon, tried to reconcile, and spoke.' Moses was trying to save the world, or at least the Israelites, in his own power. When he killed the Egyptian, perhaps he thought, "One down, three million to go!" God had to take Moses on the backside of the desert for 40 years to deliver Moses from himself. When God was finished, Moses did not even want to return to Egypt let alone lead. Leaders must be set free from themselves if they are going to do great things and sometimes God must remove them from leadership in order for them to become great leaders.

LEADERSHIP STEP: Are you removed from power or not at the leadership place you thought you would be at this point in your life? Your Step today is to map out a personal development plan or to assess the one you currently have. That plan should include reading, education, new skills, respect for others in authority, journaling, self-reflection, and Bible study. Evaluate yourself in each of those areas (1 is poor to 5 is excellent) and set a course to improve and develop.


W21D5 - Personal Development

"Moses was educated in all the wisdom
of the Egyptians and was powerful in
speech and action" - Acts 7:22.

Moses' foundation for leadership was his education; later on in life, God worked on his character. Yet without doubt he went to the finest schools and had the best teachers in preparation for what his foster mother assumed was a bright future in Egypt. Leaders cannot ignore their need for training and education, for leadership requires specific knowledge of the sphere in which they lead as well as a self-awareness that enables leaders to know their strengths and in what scenario they function best.

LEADERSHIP STEP: You cannot ignore your need for further education any longer. Today conduct a search of available anyplace in or out of your country or online, without judging whether or not you can afford the time or money. Just do the research. Perhaps a summer program or an intensive seminar would be possible. You need to make a significant investment in yourself, which will pay dividends to your leadership effectiveness for years to come. The time is now.

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Don't forget about the matching challenge grant that expires this Sunday at midnight. Every gift you give toward the work in Kenya before then is actually doubled! You can give through my website or by sending a check to PurposeQuest, PO Box 8882, Pittsburgh, PA 15221-0882.


W16D5 - Personal Development

"The king assigned them a daily amount of food
and wine from the king’s table. They were to be
trained for three years, and after that they were
to enter the king’s service" - Daniel 1:5.

Daniel was taken from the security and comfort of his Judean homeland and sent to Babylon University, where he was given a new name and had to learn a new culture, including language, customs, currency, property rights and religious practices. This was his preparation to lead in Babylon and God personally chose his course of study. Leaders must give themselves to education and training, and that is a lifelong experience and practice. Without this, there is no growth and consequently those leaders will not be able to lead and embrace fresh new initiatives.

LEADERSHIP STEP: Today think about your personal development plan to prepare for the future. Does that plan include more education? What is stopping you from pursuing that education? Today pretend like you have all the money and time you need, then decide where you would go and to get this education and training. Once you decide that, then begin to research how that can happen. Don't assume it's impossible; work to prove that it is possible and it will happen!


W11D5 - Personal Development

"You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
    therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions
    by anointing you with the oil of joy" - Hebrews 1:9.

It is interesting that Jesus was anointed with oil, not of power or goodness or miracles, but of joy. It was the joy that motivated Him and directed Him to activities where He was most productive. An anointing produces noticeable even spectacular or supernatural results. Leaders are called upon to do many things, but they must and should focus as much as possible on whatever it is they do best and that 'best' is often related to their joy - whether it is people, marketing, fundraising, innovation or team buildilng. When leaders do this, they can then release others to do the same, thus building strong teams who all function in strengths, producing exceptional results.

LEADERSHIP STEP: Are you in touch with your joy? Your step today is to carry a notebook with you to keep track of what gives you joy throughout the day. It may be your staff meeting, your press conference, an interview, an interaction with an employee or team member. When you have a few days of 'joys' collected, study the list to see what you learn and then determine how you can do more of what it is you truly enjoy doing and how that can help your organization.