Funny Guy

On one of my international trips, I was in the car with three or four young men when one of them asked me a question: "Dr. Screen Shot 2022-06-15 at 7.45.16 AMStanko," he said, "I probably won't ever get another chance to be with you like this. I like to be in front of people and make them laugh. You do that so well. Can you share any secrets with me?" I am often asked questions about how I do what I do, so I had an answer ready. I thought I would share with you what I told him.

HUMOROUS SECRETS

1.  Accept who you are. I've always made people laugh and I love itmost of the time. There were occasions, however, when I abused and misused humor to make people look silly. I can remember one night when I asked the Lord to take away my humor because I had used it incorrectly. However, I sensed that God had no intention of taking it away; He wanted to teach me how to use it properly.

Many times since then I have been able to use my humor to de-fuse sensitive situations. My humor has enhanced my ability to speak and write. In other words, being funny is who I am. The first step to using it properly was to accept it as a gift. 

2.  Develop who you are. Once I accepted the fact that being humorous is part of who I am, I then set out to make my humor effective. I studied other humorous people. I watched their routines, studying what worked and what didn't.  I noticed that people did not laugh at everything they said, yet they were still considered comics. 

I've still made lots of mistakes and I've said and written many things that weren't funny. Yet I keep working at it, studying how I can be better at what I do and who I am. More often than not, I will hear feedback that says, "You should be a stand-up comic." I laugh and respond, "I already am!"

3.  Work at who you are. The final thing I said to the young man in the car surprised him. I told him that after I accepted who I who and began to develop my skill, I then had to work at being funny. I think a lot about what to say in certain situations.  I may even go back and reconsider, "What could or should I have said in that situation that may have been funny?" When I am an emcee or a speaker, I try to plan scenarios that could be funny before I go on, even if I'm working with another person. 

However, much of what I do is spontaneous; I'm not a good joke teller. Yet I have found the more work I do to make people laugh, the more opportunities present themselves for me to be humorous. 

YOU MAY NOT BE FUNNY BUT. . .

So there you have my three secrets of humor, and they really aren't so secret. They apply to almost any gift or talent you may have.  Humor may not be your gift.  I know, however, that you do have one, and that you may be looking past it or doing nothing with it. So, your assignment is to take these three tips and apply them to your own life and work.   

For instance, are you a good cook? If so, then are you applying these three principles to your life in the kitchen?  Are you taking cooking lessons?  Giving lessons? Writing cookbooks? Teaching others to cook?

Creativity, productivity and purpose aren't magical concepts. They require a lot of work on your part, not only to find them, but to fulfill and express them.  I urge you to do your part so that the world can enjoy you to the fullest.  As you work on your gifts, I promise to continue to work on my ability to make people laugh.


Easter Power

Easter isn't what it used to be. Today, it is mostly about Easter bunnies, colored eggs, candy, and mall salesif it's acknowledged or celebrated at all. EasterPic2I was in England a few years ago over Easter and I can remember thinking that if it wasn't for the hotels advertising Easter Sunday dinner, I would never have known that Easter was approaching. When I was a child, businesses closed down between noon and 3 p.m. on Good Friday and no business ever opened on Easter Sunday. There was never any school on Good Friday or Easter Monday.

This Memo is about the good old days, but not those days 65 years ago when I was young. The good old days I want to remember are the days 2,000 years ago when Jesus came back to life, after having been dead for three days. 

BELIEVING

Easter is still one of the best-attended church days of the year when many attend worship services, some for the only time of the year, to commemorate Jesus' resurrection. Think of it: All those people come back to commemorate that the Spirit brought a dead man back to life. They believe it actually happened and bear witness to it by their presence. If you're among them and believe that Jesus was raised from the dead, then you should be able to believe God for anything.

If God raises the dead, which He does, then He can cure cancer. He can provide for your business or ministry. He can transform you into the person He intended you to be, that person you want to be. If God can take a dead body and give it life, then nothing is beyond His miracle-working power. What's more, you have the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead living in you if you have put your faith in Christ. It's not a replica of that Spirit, it's not a portion of that Spirit. You have the Spirit that raises the dead living in you. Here's what Paul had to say about the implications of your Spirit-resident:

You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you (Romans 8:9-11).

THE SPIRIT LIVES IN YOU

The Spirit lives in you, and He didn't run out of power when He brought Jesus back to life. He isn't "out there" somewhere doing good work with the same power that raises dead people. He's in you. He's present to give you the mind of Christ so you can think the very thoughts of God. He's in you so you can transmit His presence to others who have no such Spirit resident; when they have an encounter with you, they're actually having one with Him. You're His hands, His feet, His ambassador, His emissary. Jesus put it this way:

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified (John 7:37-39).

People often talk about coming into God's presence, but God's presence is always with you, whether you feel it or are aware of it. What difference should that make when you pray, work, and serve? It should make a big difference. Is it? Is Easter power present in your life and purpose work all year long? Are the rivers of living water from the Spirit's presence flowing from you? If not, then think about Romans 8:9-11 and John 7:37-39 and ask God to show you how you can allow this life-giving Spirit more room in your life to work and flow in the coming days and weeks. As you're doing that, I hope you find the time to have a blessed Resurrection Day.


On the Road Again

Here is a post I wrote in 2006, but it's still relevant to thoughts on my travels. Since 2022 looks like a busy travel year (although not to WallMapthe extent of my life on the road when I wrote this), I thought I would dust it off and share an edited version with you, for the content is still describes my thoughts about life in a hotel and on a plane. (The picture to the right is a wall map with pins in it of all the countries I have visited.).

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I'm sometimes asked about my travel schedule and how I like being on the road so much. I usually answer in jest, "A moving target is hard to hit." I've also been known to say, "I'm not sure that God knows where I am some times. And if He doesn't know, then the devil doesn't either!"

Seriously, there are a few thoughts that sustain me while I'm on the road. The first is the knowledge that my father, who served in World War II, was away from home for several years serving his country. I'm involved in even more important work of the Kingdom, so I should be willing, in my mind, to pay a price, and for me, that includes being away from home.

The second is a verse in Paul's second letter to the Corinthians: "I have been constantly on the move, I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers" (11:26, emphasis added). Paul traveled a lot to do what God wanted him to do; it seems that I have to do so as well.

Don't get me wrong. while I enjoy traveling, I also love being at home. I wish the doors would open in the States that have opened in other countries. I wouldn't mind staying busy at home. (Note: I was able to do that during the pandemic and was quite happy, not depressed or pining away for life at 39,000 feet.) And I miss my wife terribly when I'm gone. (You'll have to ask her if she misses me). I admit that I get a bit miffed when people glibly say, "You're never home!" I'm home about one third of the year, and my travels pay for the home we do have.

As people get to know me and my at times outlandish humor, they will often ask my wife, "How can you live with him?"  Her answer is, "I don't have to; he's seldom here. God has made a way where they seemed to be no way!" So until something else opens up closer to home, I'm destined to follow in Paul's footsteps and be on the move regularly. I only wish I could be as effective as Paul was when I go.


The End of Self

The end of self is the true beginning of self. What am I talking about? Is that a riddle? Double-talk? Let me explain. Screen Shot 2022-03-07 at 6.52.25 PM

Most people are familiar with Jesus' words that pertain to picking up a cross and following Him. The cross isn't the end of your personality; it's where it begins. The cross enables you to come into contact with so you can develop your personality as God intended it to be. The problem is that we are so steeped in the self-willed self life that it's almost impossible to let go. This is highlighted by Paul's words in Philippians 2:19-23 when he described his assistant Timothy:

I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you. I have no one else like him, who will show genuine concern for your welfare. For everyone looks out for their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel. I hope, therefore, to send him as soon as I see how things go with me.

Can you imagine? Of all the great men with whom Paul traveled, he had no one like Timothy. Timothy had reached an end of self to such an extent that he could be genuinely interested in the welfare of others and not his own. If Paul only saw one such man in his life, how many will you and I see? Perhaps the better question is: Can you become the one Timothy that other people encounter? More on that later.

I've been thinking this past week on the examples I can offer of people who haven't come to the end of self and self-will because they haven't truly picked up their cross. Here are some thoughts:

  1. If you have no experience in an area, but offer your uneducated opinion, and then are offended when people don't follow or listen to you, you haven't come to an end of self.
  2. If you can't accept advice, and insist on doing things yourself in your own way, even when you don't have the expertise, you haven't come to an end of self.
  3. If you refuse to change your habits, like how or where you work, or stubbornly resist adopting new technology or work habits, you haven't come to an end of self.
  4. If you've consistently had no results in an area of life, work, or ministry, but cling to the ways you've always done it (and get upset when someone speaks into your dysfunction), you haven't come to an end of self.
  5. If you believe you're entitled to your opinion (which you are), but that your opinion is special simply because it's yours, you haven't come to an end of self.
  6. If you ignore the input of someone who has walked a path before you, especially when that person has no vested interest except to see you succeed, you haven't come to an end of self.
  7. If you've failed in an area, but still want to be the one to give advice or direction instead of listening and learning, you haven't come to an end of self.

Keep in mind that I'm not suggesting your surrender your life's direction to anyone but the Lord. However, I regularly see these dynamics and tendencies mentioned above at work in my consulting and teaching and it keeps people from bearing fruit and transforming into the people God wants them to be.

What's more, I've seen them all operate in my own life, past and present, and I'm always confronting where I'm more interested in serving my own image of who I want to be (or seem to be) as opposed to who others and God need me to be. To the extent that I've come to an end of self, I have been able to embrace my true self and it has been liberating. I invite you to join me, so that together we can form an army of people like Timothy who can selflessly serve others through our true selves.


When the Truth Doesn't Set You Free

There isn't a day go by that I don't quote John 8:32 to someone, "You will know the truth and the truth will set you free." Why is Screen Shot 2022-03-02 at 10.54.40 AM this such an important passage? It's because we are often holding on to a truth that we think is the truth but in reality is a half-truth or non-truth. If something isn't freeing but restricting us from being or doing all that we could, it is not the truth Jesus was addressing.

In Jesus' day, the Jews held the "truth" that no prophet could come from Galilee or no good from Nazareth. Thus, they missed the truth of Jesus because they held some other "truth." The first Jewish believers knew the truth that everyone had to follow the law of Moses even after they professed faith in Christ. Thus, they missed the freedom that came from putting their total trust in Jesus.

We could go on and on about the "truths" that have bound whole cultures. At one point, we "knew" that the world was flat, the sun orbited the earth, that people with lighter skin were superior to those with darker, and that bleeding someone who was sick would make them well. Men and women were ready to, and often did, die for these so-called truths. Sincerely holding that a belief is true isn't the issue, for I can be sincere and that only makes me sincerely misguided.

What truth are you holding about yourself that isn't setting you free, but limiting your effectiveness? Are you thinking, "I'm too old," "I'm too young," "I'm not that talented," "I can't get my hands on that kind of money to start my business," or "I can't write"? If you are, is that the truth or is it a lie that appears to be or sounds like truth? Are you part of an organization that believes the same kind of limiting "truths"?

I regularly try to find time to examine various truths I hold about myself that may or may not be true at all. They may be limiting me and putting me in a box. It's true that I'm an author, I'm creative, I'm a source of joy and inspiration for many people, but there were times when I haven't walked in those truths and was bound.

How about you? Are there any truths about yourself that haven't set you free but tied you up? If so, then those things aren't the truth at all; you are only labeling them as such. Spend some time examining these ideas, conclusions, or assumptions that have limited your ability to create or be purposeful. Only then can the truth be the truth, which is powerful enough to transform you and set you free.


Ministry Standards Overview

For your convenience, I list all eight ministry standards with their supporting biblical passage for your review and study.Each Screen Shot 2022-02-16 at 8.36.40 PMone is linked to the actual post that expands on each one.

1. APPROACHABLE "Then little children were brought to Jesus for Him to place His hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked those who brought them. Jesus said, 'Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these" (Matthew 19:13-14).

2. RESPONSIVE – "When Jesus had again crossed over by boat to the other side of the lake, a large crowd gathered around him while he was by the lake. Then one of the synagogue leaders, named Jairus, came, and when he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet. He pleaded earnestly with him, “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.” So Jesus went with him" (Mark 5:21-24).

3. EMPATHETIC – “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires” (James 1:19-20), and "Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position" (Romans 12:15-16).

4. HUMBLE – "Also a dispute arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. Jesus said to them, 'The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves'" (Luke 22:24-27).

5. INTEGRITY – "Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. "In your anger do not sin": Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.  Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you" (Ephesians 4:25-32).

6. UNITY – "May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Romans 15:5-6) and "Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all" (Ephesians 4:3-6).

7. COMPETENT – "For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light" (Colossians 1:9-12, emphasis added).

8. ORGANIZED – Genesis 41:39-40 states, “Turning to Joseph, Pharaoh said, ‘Since God has revealed the meaning of the dreams to you, you are the wisest man in the land! I hereby appoint you to direct this project. You will manage my household and organize my people. Only I will have a rank higher than yours.’”


Ministry Standard 8: Organized

This is the last of my list of ministry standards to which I aspire and hold myself accountable. Making them public also means Screen Shot 2022-02-16 at 8.36.40 PMthat others can hold me accountable as well.

8. ORGANIZED – In Genesis 41:39-40, we read, “Turning to Joseph, Pharaoh said, ‘Since God has revealed the meaning of the dreams to you, you are the wisest man in the land! I hereby appoint you to direct this project. You will manage my household and organize my people. Only I will have a rank higher than yours.’”

God is a God of order and we seek His help in organizing our ministry sphere of influence to touch as many people as possible. We are diligent to organize our work so we can involve people with the heart, gifts ,and purpose to do the work of ministry, just as Pharaoh did with Joseph. This involves being punctual, answering emails and phone calls, and managing our time with skill and grace.

I once read a quote, "There are people who want to change the world but can't return their emails." I don't organize for organization's sake just because I enjoy a neat desk or tidy to-do list. I organize so I can handle the more that Jesus seemed to indicate was the Father's expectation as was the lesson in this parable: "Then you should have deposited my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received it back with interest" (Matthew 25:27). This 'more' was also alluded to in Proverbs 14:28: "A growing population is a king’s glory; a prince without subjects has nothing" (NLT). The 'more' isn't about things and structures but about people and their well-being now and for eternity.

In the next post, I will summarize all eight standards so you can have then in one placejust in case you want to use them as guidelines to develop your own ministry standards for performance and behavior.


A Shot at a House

In one of my volumes of The Faith Files, I told the story of a house my family purchased through a series of faith actions. We Screen Shot 2022-03-10 at 4.17.31 PMlived in that house for five years and enjoyed every day there. We hosted weddings in our large family room. We hosted dinner parties and had family and friends over regularly for cookouts and meals. Out-of-town family came to visit, and my wife’s sister lived with us for three years. I had an office in the downstairs bedroom and the other bedrooms were upstairs. If ever there was a house we loved, that was the one.

THE MOVE

After five years, however, we sensed that God was calling us to pastor a church in Orlando, Florida. That meant we would have to put our beloved house in Mobile, Alabama on the market. The Orlando church needed someone right away, so we put the house up for sale and moved into a rental home in Orlando, 500 miles away. We moved before we sold because we didn’t want a house to hold us in an area when God wanted us to be someplace else. What’s more, we just knew (or assumed) that our Mobile house would sell quickly because we were doing God’s will.

We enjoyed being in Orlando but the Mobile house didn’t sell right away. Truth be told, we were in a rental house for two years while we waited for the Alabama house to sell. We prayed, lowered the price, had people walk around the house and declare it sold, prayed some more, and struggled every month to make two payments—our rent and our mortgage. 

Then one day my children came running into my office with a registered letter. Unbeknownst to me, they had entered my name in a drawing for a free house and the letter was from the builder and the NBA Orlando Magic, cosponsors of the house giveaway. When I opened the letter, I was informed that I was one of 50 finalists to win the house. All I had to do was come to a Magic game, shoot one foul shot, and, if I made the shot, my name would be entered in the final drawing. There was no telling how many others would make their shot, so my chances were at worst one in fifty—if I made the shot. We were excited!

When I looked at the ticket for my game, however, my heart sank. It was for a Monday night and I was scheduled to be away at a church conference. I was the conference coordinator, so there was no way I could not be present. I called the Magic to see if I could switch games with someone else. They said no. We were all disappointed, but I gave my ticket away and drove to Atlanta the same day that my “shot” at a house had been scheduled.

THE HOUSE

Needless to say, I was discouraged as I made the seven-hour drive to Atlanta. “God,” I said, “I’ve done everything I knew to do to sell the house. I moved to Orlando because You wanted me to. And now I feel like You dangled this house in front of me and jerked it away.” As I drove, I realized that I could view this scenario in one of two ways. I could be discouraged and even angry over what had transpired, or I could see this as a sign from God. God could give me a house when He was ready to do so. I didn’t need the Orlando Magic or anyone else to help me. If God was for me, and He was, who could be against me? By the time I arrived in Atlanta, I had made my choice to trust God.

After a two-year wait, we sold the house while I was at that conference! What’s more, six months later God miraculously provided and we bought a house in Orlando, complete with a swimming pool and citrus trees growing in our yard. We loved that home, too, not because it was the greatest house in the world, but because of what we learned in the process.

Faith doesn’t make God your butler who is ready to meet your every wish or need. It doesn’t put God at your beck and call. It does, however, give you the means to live every day with confidence and joy. My experience made what Job said a little more real to me: "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I shall return there. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21 NAS) and “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain mine own ways before him” (Job 13:15).


Ministry Standard 7: Competence

We are almost done with my list of ministry standards with just one more after this entry, which describes our need in ministry Screen Shot 2022-02-16 at 8.36.40 PMto grow in knowledge and expertise so as not to rely on our call or anointing.

7. COMPETENTFor this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light (Colossians 1:9-12, emphasis added).

We constantly strive to improve our skills so the Holy Spirit can maximize our effectiveness and work through us. This requires that we attend seminars, classes and workshops, and also follow a reading/learning program that includes Word studies and other relevant resources. We also regularly teach and train to impart what we know, while also learning from those we teach. 

If we know more, God has more to use and can quicken it in us when He desires us to express it. If, however, we are ignorant and God anoints us, all we have is anointed ignorance!


Ministry Standard 6: Unity

As we continue to look at the ministry standards I had established at my last church position, let's examine the importance of not Screen Shot 2022-02-16 at 8.36.40 PMbetraying the confidence of those who trust us, including members of our ministry team.

6. UNITY – May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 15:5-6).

We stand together to support one another as we first seek to carry out the goals of the church and our own ministries after that.  We work to understand each other’s ministry strengths and assist one another wherever and whenever possible. We are also accountable to one another for not only our results but also our attitudes and behaviors (See also John 17:23 and 1 Corinthians 12:12-27).  We do not share our problems or disagreements with those who report to us, with members, or those who attend the church. If we have a problem with someone, we go directly to that person, involving others only if the matter cannot be resolved by those directly involved.

Unity is more than doctrinal agreement. It is the bond that causes teammates to be loyal to one another and to be focused on the same corporate goals as agreed upon by leadership and the team itself.