Archives For Leadership

In celebration of Presidents’ Day, here is a prayer written by our first President:

“Increase my faith in the sweet promises of the gospel; give me repentance from dead works; pardon my wanderings, and direct my thought unto thyself, the God of my salvation; teach me how to live in thy fear, labor in thy service, and ever to run in the ways of thy commandments; make me always watchful over my heart, that neither the terrors of conscience, the loathing of holy duties, the love of sin, nor an unwillingness to depart this life, may cast me into a spiritual slumber, but daily frame me more and more into the likeness of thy son Jesus Christ, that living in thy fear, and dying in thy favor, I may in thy appointed time attain the resurrection of the just unto eternal life…”

–George Washington

You can find more about the spiritual life of President Washington here – George Washington the Christian.

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Notice the concern in this prayer about being “cast into a spiritual slumber -“ being inactive  and deadened toward the pursuit spiritual goals.  Consider the biblical support for the things Washington says can have this effect on us.

Terrors of conscience

What we’re talking about here is overwhelming feelings of guilt.  It’s one of the things that bring us to the cross, but too much dwelling on failure tends to destroy, not motivate.  It can actually lead us to spiritual lethargy.

Isaiah 6:5 – And I said: “Woe is me!  For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”

Would you say Isaiah was ready to act in that moment?  As he confronted his own sinfulness compared to the matchless sovereign God, he stood immobilized by his own unworthiness.  It was only after he experienced forgiveness and the removal of guilt in verse 7 that he was able to say, “Here am I! Send me,” in verse 8.

Luke 5:8 – “But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”

Again with Peter, we see a man nearly undone as he realized that he was in the presence of the Lord.  His own sins and failures made him feel unworthy to be anywhere near Jesus, let alone work for him.

And again we see the comfort of the Lord as the catalyst – Luke 5:10 – “And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.”  And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.”

What woke them up, spiritually?  Not condemnation – but the forgiveness and acceptance of God.

II Corinthians 5:11-6:2 – “Therefore knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others.”

Knowing the fear of the Lord.   Knowing the terror and despondency of a broken conscience contemplating the day of judgment, the message is to believe in, accept, and receive the grace of God (6:2).

Conscience is a wonderful thing.  It is given to us by God in order to cause us to seek Him.  But a full recognition of how deeply my conscience condemns me before God will knock me out of the race without an equal recognition and remembrance of the grace of God continually poured out for me (Hebrews 9:14)

Hebrews 10:22 – “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.”

Loathing of holy duty

Malachi 1:13 – “But you say, “What a weariness this is, and you snort at it, says the Lord of hosts.  You bring what has been taken by violence or is lame or sick, and this you bring as your offering!  Shall I accept that from your hand? Says the Lord.”

I Corinthians 11:26-30 – “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.  Whoever, therefore, eats the brad or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord.  Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.  For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.  That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.”

Hebrews 10:23-25 – “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.  And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

Is it a chore to pray?  To read/study the Bible?  Do look for occasions to do good?  To practice patience, kindness, gentleness, charity?  Can we make a decision to love the works of our Lord and pray for his help in that?

Love of sin

Hebrews 12:1 – let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.

Matthew 13:22 – As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.

II Timothy 4:10 – Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica.

Romans 1:32 – Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

Ephesians 5:3-15

Fear of death

Luke 14:26 – If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.

Matthew 10:28 – Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.  Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

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A Bit of Nobility

February 15, 2014 — Leave a comment

When I went through Army basic training my eyes were opened to how much of an idealist I am.   My view of people in general is that we all want the best and do our best and have the best intentions for ourselves and for others.  Throughout my life I have started with that assumption until given a reason to think otherwise about an individual.  I still think that, as a rule, it’s a good way to approach things.

But in the military, especially in a basic training environment, people are under a lot of stress and one’s true character becomes apparent very quickly.   I learned fast that many of my comrades were self-centered, uncooperative, and swift to run towards evil.  And I know that much of the world is in the same place.

Isaiah says, “The fool speaks folly, and his heart is busy with iniquity, to practice ungodliness, to utter error concerning the Lord, to leave the craving of the hungry unsatisfied, and to deprive the thirsty of drink.  As for the scoundrel – his devices are evil; he plans wicked schemes to ruin the poor with lying words, even when the plea of the needy is right.”  (Isaiah 32:6-7, ESV)

There have always been such people – only interested in themselves and willing to hurt and even destroy anyone else as long as they get what they want.

But Isaiah also says there is another kind of person:  “But he who is noble plans noble things, and on noble things he stands.”  (Isaiah 32:8, ESV)

Those who consider themselves sophisticated are often filled with cynicism.  They believe that virtually everyone is like the fool and the scoundrel and that a truly noble person is rare almost beyond imagining.  Is there really anyone whose heart is pure?  One who plans good things, noble things?  And who builds his life only on that which is good?

The Bible shows us several, I think.   King David in II Samuel 7 had a noble plan.  He wanted to build a house for the Lord to be worshipped in.  He thought it was unfitting that a mere human being should dwell in a mansion, “a house of cedar”, while the house of God was a mere tent.   And even though God assigned the task of building the temple to David’s son,  David spent years of his life planning for, designing, and setting aside the resources to build the temple.  The house Solomon built was very much the result of David’s noble plan.

I think, too, of Joseph in Genesis 39.  Although he was a young man with the normal passions and desires of a young man, we see him able to steadfastly resist the advances of Potiphar’s wife, even when refusing her cost him dearly.  How was he able to do that?  So many, young and old, today claim that sexual urges are so powerful and uncontrollable that they just can’t help but give in to temptation when the moment comes.  Again, how did Joseph do it?  Well, he had a noble plan and was standing on nobler things than momentary physical pleasure.   I wish more of us were like Joseph – I wish that more of us thought more of ourselves and of our purpose in this world than to yield ourselves up to immorality.

Paul says, “Whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.  Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.  For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ…  … that I may know Him and the power of His resurrections, and may share His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection of the dead.”  (Philippians 3:7-11)   What a noble plan!  What a noble deed!   Can we say that, honestly, to ourselves and one another?  Can we say that we will pay any price, lose any physical benefit, and throw away the pleasures and profits of this world, if only we can really know Jesus and be like Him?   Can we say to ourselves that there is nothing worth more than that to us?  Is it true that we will do anything it takes to attain eternal life, the resurrection of the dead?   And how much different would your life be if that were true?

He who is noble plans noble things.  And on noble things he stands.

Brad

Joseph’s Brothers

February 15, 2014 — Leave a comment

I’ve been reading again the story of Joseph and his family in the book of Genesis.  Here are a few quick notes:

The Brothers of Joseph:

Had a brother who robbed them of their father’s devotion – Genesis 37:3

Were humiliated by their brother’s dreams – Genesis 37:5-11

Were moved by envy to murderous anger – Genesis 37:11, 18-2

…and betrayed their brother and father

Yet received grace. – Genesis 45:1-11

Raised in a self-centered, undirected family.

Jacob was busy getting over on Laban – Genesis 30:25-43, 31:7-20

Rachel and Leah were busy getting over on each other – Genesis 29:31-30:24

-the children, and the servants of each, were pawns for getting at the heart of Jacob

Aside from that, Laban, the children’s grandfather, is trying to cheat their father Jacob, Jacob has already cheated his brother Esau, and Jacob is getting ready for a wrestling match with the angel of God! (Genesis 32:22-30)

Jacob is a striver with God and man – Genesis 32:28

Is it any wonder that by the time the family gets to Canaan the sons of Jacob are conniving, deceitful, and small hearted?  Genesis 34:13     – even when they’re in the right they lie!

But, for all that, God is with Jacob and in the midst of all this He reiterates the promise made previously to Abraham and Isaac – Genesis 35:1-15.  God’s promise stands, not because of righteousness of man, but because of God promised it.   And Jacob lived by faith – Hebrews 11:21.  But that doesn’t mean no mistakes were made.  And those mistakes are at the heart of the problem we see in Genesis 37 and 39

Genesis 37:18-36

Genesis 39:1-6

God can take all the bad and make it good, but look at all the misery, uncertainty, fear, and threat that filled these years.  Wouldn’t God have found a way to preserve them even if they hadn’t acted corruptly?

It is the same with us.  We all stumble often, James says, and God can make all things work together for good anyway.  If we endure the chastening, it will afterward yield peaceable fruit – Hebrews 12:11

But let us not sin that good may come!  Romans 3:8:.  There is a better way.

A few applications:

What becomes of our children when moms and dads are so focused on their own schemes that they neglect the welfare of their children?

Or when the parents act corruptly to get their way, what do the children learn?

When adults are self-centered, and the kids are left to themselves, are they inclined to good things, or mischievous things?  Proverbs 22:5

At church, when the parents are focused merely on their own edification, do we pay attention to whether our kids are paying attention?  Or when we let the kids sit with their friends – it makes church more fun for them and it makes it easier for us to focus on the service, right?  But are the kids worshiping then?  Or are they passing notes, joking around, and spacing out?  Can we be guilty of neglecting them right here in this good place?

And then, after worship – as the adults enjoy good fellowship and conversation and the kids are turned loose, is it just clean honest fun the kids are having?  I know I sometimes come home to angry kids with bad attitudes after 45 minutes left to themselves after church with their friends.

Proverbs 29:15

It’s worth acknowledging that no matter how good your child is, and mine, the influence they have on one another is not always good.  They are children and we are parents for a reason.   We need to be wise and be aware of what’s going on.  Or better yet, include our children with us.  Let them be where we are after church or, let us go where they are.

The story of Joseph and his brothers is the story of a family run amuck.  I have no doubt that Jacob was a faithful man – a well-intentioned man.  But his weaknesses carried consequences for his family.  As do ours.  May we strive to recognize them and overcome them.

Sunday Sermon at the church of Christ on Elm Street in St. Charles, Missouri, December 1, 2013. A discussion of the statistics that reveal a lack of trust in every segment of American society and God’s solution to the problem.

Mapping Human Emotions

Finnish researchers have found a way to map the way feelings affect the human body.

The ruins of Stonehenge lie north of Salisbury, England.  To this day, despite intensive research and discovery, the purpose of this 4000 year old monument remains a mystery.  No one knows for sure why or even how it was built.   The large stones are believed to have been transported from Marlborough downs, a distance of 20 miles while some of the smaller stones (still up to 4 tons in weight) may have been brought from Wales – nearly 160 miles away.

It is difficult to explain how, using primitive technology, such large pieces were moved such great distances.  The project continued for nearly 1000 years and required the labor of thousands of individuals.  The sheer scope of the effort suggests that Stonehenge was hugely important to the ancient people of Britain.  But we don’t know why.  The site fell into disuse and disrepair, and its significance has long been forgotten.

gloomy-stonehenge

(from LiveScience.com)

Today, in the former country of Yugoslavia, dozens of monuments commemorating World War II battles stand abandoned and forgotten.   Millions per year visited these sites 30 years ago, but 500 years from now, will anyone know why they are there?  Some of these sites are already beginning to look like ruins and even today they are virtually unknown outside of their own territory.

be3ca-spomenik_1892432-spomenik_19f621c-spomenik_22

In the Bible, speaking of the temple in Jerusalem, Jesus said, “there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down (Matthew 24:2).”  And within a generation, his words came true.  Indeed, the world and all its works continue to pass away (I John 2:17).  Even the great and noble things of this world do not last, nor do the memorials we create to honor them.

And yet we still look in awe at the mystery of Stonehenge and we admire the work of its nameless creators.  I suspect that, if they stand, the monuments in Yugoslavia will evoke a similar response many years hence.

More than the monument, though, the legacy of Stonehenge lives in the people – the descendants of the ancients who built it.  The culture that created Stonehenge is one of the building blocks of the English-speaking world that exists today.

In the same way, those neglected monuments to World War II represent a generation that sacrificed and suffered greatly and that, for good and for ill, shaped the world as we know it.

And for us, too, that is what will ultimately last.  Not the projects completed, houses built, or possessions obtained.  None of the physical creations will be remembered, but the ideas, the interactions, and the character that shapes our works will also shape our futures.

 

Quiet Aspirations

December 2, 2013 — Leave a comment

I Timothy 2:1-2 – “I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”

I Thessalonians 4:9-12 – “Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, for that indeed is what you are doing… But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, and to aspire to live quietly and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.”

II Thessalonians 3:11-12 – “We hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies.  Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.”

Image

Nike advises us in their commercials to Find Your Greatness.   Television shows like The Voice and American Idol have become the aspiration of multitudes of bedroom musicians hoping to find their big break and attain stardom.  And Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and countless other social media allow us all to market ourselves and help us feel like we are bigger fish than we actually are.

When I talk to young people, and even to those who are older, most have a strong inner drive to “do something that matters.”  We like to think that we are engaged in something important; something that is going to help shape the world.

But the thing that matters is not reaching the top of the heap.  It’s not being in a position where you can control outcomes and have a great deal of influence in the lives of others.  It isn’t being “great,” or notorious, or a star.  The really important thing is living a life of personal integrity.

In the Bible, we are encouraged to “aspire to live quietly and to mind (our) own affairs.”  To seek to mind our own business, and to let others mind theirs.  It’s interesting that those words are found in the middle of a discussion on loving one another – and doing so more and more.

We tend to think of love in terms of what we do for others.  But love also consists in letting others alone – allowing them to make their own decisions, manage their own affairs, and to enjoy the fruits and consequences of so doing.

Further, our ability to do really big things is only enhanced when we focus first on finding peace, stability, and order at home.  Jesus said, “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is a log in your own?  You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:3-5).

We grow weary of corrupt politicians who tell us how to live our lives while their own are scandal ridden.  And we rightly scoff at pastors and religious leaders who preach one thing and do another.  But the same principle applies to you and me.  First let us learn to manage ourselves and our own responsibilities.  Then we may, perhaps, have clear insight to help others.

Brad

1. When things get tough, just keep going.

When most people encounter a rough patch, they quit.  The truly successful people in the world keep going no matter what.  Never let your setbacks win.

2. Consistency creates habit.

To incorporate anything into your life, you have to make it a habit.  To make something a habit, you have to be consistent.  Whatever it is you’re aiming for, make it a part of your life.

3. You’ll have to get through hell before you get to heaven.

Like all things worth pursuing, you are going to get knocked down, stepped on, and rejected along the way.  Consider this to be part of the path to your goals.  Sometimes it’s more about the journey than the destination.

4. Reaching your goals will take a lot of work.

If it doesn’t, it’s either not a goal, not worth pursuing, or will not have any fulfillment.  Never expect to not put in work and get somewhere.

5. Every aspect of life is mental.

It’s not about what you do or what happens to you, it’s about how to respond to it.  It’s how you decide to carry on.  Your power comes from inside your head.

6.  You do have time– you just have to make it.

If something is important to you, you’ll make time for it.  If not, you’ll make excuses.

7. You define your own limits.

Your limits aren’t put unto you by your parents, other people, or the universe.  You are in total control of it.  You decide whether or not to shoot for the moon or stay right where you are.

8. If you wait for the right conditions, you’ll never get anything done.

Don’t wait for anything or anybody.  You know what you have to do to reach your goals and get things done. Just go do them!

9. Go beyond your limits every day and watch the magic happen.

You’ll be amazed at what you can achieve if you just push yourself a little further.

10. There is peace even in the most chaotic times.

No matter now grueling, stressful, sorrowful, or painful your situation is, there is always a silver lining and something positive to be found.  Seek it out, learn from it, and keep moving on.

via 10 Lessons Running Teaches You About Life | The Daily Runner.

tree-trunk

Chinese Wood Carver Zheng Chunhui Wins Guinness World Record for Giant Carving.

One tree trunk, four years of work.  Here are the results.

How to Lead a Team:

November 17, 2013 — Leave a comment

“I’m just a plowhand from Arkansas, but I have learned how to hold a team together. How to lift some men up, how to calm down others, until finally they’ve got one heartbeat together, a team.  There’s just three things I’d ever say: If anything goes bad, I did it. If anything goes semi-good, then we did it. If anything goes real good, then you did it. That’s all it takes to get people to win football games for you.”

Bear Bryant.

13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do.

Pretty good list.

Taking time to Ponder

November 14, 2013 — Leave a comment

“And Isaac went out to meditate in the field toward evening.”

-Genesis 24:63

I was reading in Genesis last night the story of the marriage of Isaac and Rebekah, and this line jumped out at me.  Isaac went out to meditate in the field.  He is a nomad, living in a tent, far away from civilization.  There are few, if any, books available to him.  No telephone, television, or internet.  No texts, tweets, emails, Facebook statuses, or voice messages to respond to.  No one at the office is looking for him.  He’s single, so he doesn’t have any children running around underfoot demanding his attention and he has none of the responsibilities that go along with marriage.  I imagine that, even in the hustle and bustle of the camp, most of us would feel pretty alone with our thoughts.  So, why did he need to get away in order to meditate?

More importantly, if ancient Isaac had to separate himself from the humdrum of his relatively spartan existence to meditate, then it is all the more vital that we clear time and space for ourselves sometimes to just stop and think.

Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure.  Proverbs 4:26

“Make me understand the way of your precepts, and I will meditate on your wondrous works.”  Psalm 119:27

Meditation is not the same thing as studying (Ecclesiastes 12:9-14).  Pondering has to do with thinking through the things you have studied and experienced and forming complete ideas about things – especially about the things God is revealing to you.  It takes time.  And most of our schedules don’t have room for it.

Even when I do try to just stop and think, if I am at home or at work, people assume I’m just zoning out or that I have nothing to do, and so they feel free to interrupt.  It’s no good to sit at the computer, because the whole world of the internet is right there, calling my name.  My phone accompanies me even to the great outdoors – I’m almost never completely out of reach and alone with myself.

Maybe Isaac was on to something.  Maybe, every once in awhile, toward evening it would be good to lay the phone on my desk and head outside, where no one else is, and just think.

Greatness

November 13, 2013 — Leave a comment

The Six Element

“It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.”               – Ralph Waldo Emerson –

I.W.W. Meeting -- Union Sq., 4/11/14  (LOC)

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