Break the Chains

I’ve written before about being a slave to my calendar but I still haven’t broken the chains. Reading today’s verse got me thinking about the other things in my life that pull me in multiple directions or control my time and energy. Using the term “slave” isn’t appropriate in most cases since it has such negative connotations but it really describes how something or someone can have complete control over you. As human beings, we like to be in control of the things in our lives and the path that we take. When we have little or no say, we feel enslaved.

I function, at high levels, in at least four different capacities in my life. As a local government consultant, an elected official, a military contractor and a husband/father. These are all awesome roles that I play and are hopefully meaningful to those that I serve. The challenge is that they are usually more in control of me than I am of them. What things are controlling your life? Often, they are things that we simply can’t do without – our job, our family or our parents. But sometimes we can actually effect change that will free us; like spending less time with a friend who taking an emotional toll on us or a hobby that has started to consume ALL of our free time. One of the keys to happiness is to spend time on things that are meaningful to you and bring joy into your life. Figure out what those things are and break the chains on everything else.

34Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:34-36

We are a slave to sin. This is one of those things that we cannot control. We can’t control or manage it and no matter what we do, we will sin. Jesus said a number of times that we are “in Him and He is in us”. We also know that what has been given to Jesus has also been given to us. This verse reminds us that we are free from sin because Jesus took all of our sins with and upon Him on the cross. He set us free from sin! It’s amazing to me the number of people who feel that they are not worthy to even go into a church because of their sin. “I have to get right with God, first” they say.

We are all “right with God” because of Jesus! The Son has set us free from sin and nothing stands between us and God. We are no longer under the law and we have been made right with the law thanks to the sacrifice of Jesus for our salvation. It is pretty clear in the Bible that God has granted our salvation and eternal life in heaven through our faith in Jesus Christ. I am in awe of that. Despite my daily sins, God continues to forgive me. When we hear about grace and mercy, this is the first thing that should come into our minds. We are free indeed! Consume your time with things that are pleasing to God like spending time in the Bible reading God’s word or giving your talents freely to those who need it. Let others know what freedom is all about.

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Follow the Leader

Do people follow you because they have to or because they are inspired by you? In our lives, we are all leaders and followers depending on the situation. Sometimes at home, you are the leader and other times you are the follower. Good followers do not go blindly, they understand the mission of the leader and follow to make things better. What kind of a follower are you? Generally speaking, followers inspire others and in turn become leaders.

Even designated leaders must learn to be good followers. Unfortunately, we often see people in leadership positions who demand allegiance from their followers but they fail to act in the same way to those they follow. What kind of follower are you? Do you demand from those you lead something you won’t give as a follower yourself or do you leave them in the dark about where you are headed? We should always try to lead by setting a good example. The bottom line is that we all need to work toward common goals for the betterment of the greater good. Effective leadership and followership fosters an atmosphere that inspires innovation, allows people time to explore ideas and be creative which will pay dividends in morale and may produce efficiencies or new products.

Matthew 4:19 – “Come, follow me,“ Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.”

Jesus provided us with great examples of leadership. He was a great follower too – he fulfilled the prophets and, followed the commandments and His Father’s will with perfection. We will never be perfect but we can use Jesus’ examples in our lives. When Jesus said “I will make you fishers of men”, it really means: I will give you the tools, the strength, the time, the understanding, the guidance and an example to follow so that you, my disciples, will lead people to me.

Despite His followers set backs, Jesus was always there to pick them up, help them understand and lead another day. He gave them opportunities to serve and circumstances to teach the Word of God. Are you a fisher of men? The Lord has blessed you by putting you in a unique position as both a leader and a follower. Remember what Jesus did, how he lead, and put that to good work. The work of a follower is important to. Understand the mission and do your best. Reading the Bible, daily devotions and deliberate Christian living are keys to being a good follower and you will attract those that need a leader. In the end, you are already a fisher of men.

What’s in a Name?

A good reputation or a good name is hard to come by but can be lost very easily. Your success at work and I’d argue, in life, is critical to your reputation. Spend a moment and think of a leader or person in your life that you’d like to emulate or is someone that you really enjoy speaking with. Maybe it’s someone that has helped you in your career or trained you in something new. Now ask yourself, have I done any of these things for others? It’s difficult for us to know what our own reputation is; at least what people really think of us. Taking time to reflect on your own reputation and to answer these questions may help you measure how good your name really is.

Society has placed a lot of emphasis on being successful (riches) and we are often judged by the things we have. The good news today is that we can see that all changing. People are becoming more concerned with making a difference or experiencing what life has to offer than they are with amassing wealth. The “tiny house” movement is a great example. I have a friend who is asking leaders the question, are you being significant or successful? He suggests that being significant to someone or others is far more important than any material success you may achieve. I couldn’t agree more.

Proverbs 22:1 “A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.”

We all have the opportunity to demonstrate our faith everyday by being an example for living a Christian life. To create a good name, you can show others your compassion, caring, understanding and patience. Being aggressive in business has been rewarded with bonuses and perks but they all might be at the cost of your good name.

We learn from the message in Proverbs that it is better to be esteemed rather than rich. In today’s world, we are faced with a mountain of challenges but in the end, we should be striving to make a difference. God will provide great riches beyond this life and He will give you the most important good name – Saved One. Leadership is not about getting something; it is about giving yourself to others, to share what you know so that others can become significant. We are all leaders to someone in our lives – whether we know it or not. Jesus led the disciples and showed the way of Christian living. St. Paul lead the churches of the region through his letters and support. If God can use St. Paul, while in jail, to provide leadership that has lasted for more than 2000 years, how hard can it be for us to be significant to someone for just one day?

Win at All Costs

Win at all costs! An expression that we heard often in the 1990’s and it seems to be making a come back. Last week I wrote about what Millennials want in the workplace and we learned that their generation is looking at the big picture – corporate responsibility that is socially conscious. Yes, this is the generation where “everyone got a trophy” but they do understand that: together we conquer, divided we fall. What happens when we give up everything to “win”?

How aggressive do you play to win? Do nice guys really finish last? If we all look into our pasts, chances are good that we will see times when it appears that or perhaps we actually did; forfeit our souls to get ahead. What is worth trading your soul for? The riches of the world are very appealing: new cars, bigger houses, a boat, jewelry and the like. These are the material things of this world that we are reminded, throughout the bible, not to pay attention to but to keep our focus on God. Be careful of the circumstances that don’t feel right but you can’t understand why. The warning is from your soul telling you not to give part of it away.

Matthew 16:26 “What good will it be for a man if he gains the world yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?”

We need to be living according to God’s word. What can a man give in exchange for his soul? We may gain much in this life but if we do little with it, we will be very disappointed with our results. We are assured by John in the second part of verse 3:16 “for whoever believes in him will have eternal life”. We can rest assured that God will keep his promises to us.

What obligation do you have to God? We should be willing to be faithful servants to Him and we can do that by putting our beliefs into action. Leading like a good Christian; with truth, ethics, nobility and God as your guiding force is a good place to start. Oftentimes, it is always “just one more time” for us – one more time to bend the numbers and I’ll have the next promotion or one more time to gossip about a co-worker and I’ll get the best assignment or one more time to under report my income and I’ll have enough money. Today, if you’re still focused on the gains of this world, turn away from what you’re doing, turn away from what you’ve done and live your life as if your soul depends on it, it just might!

Direction and Need

I read an article this morning about the leadership needs of the Millennial Generation. The styles of leadership that worked well in the past will not work today or at least in the near future. Millennials view leadership in a new way, believe that a leader’s personality is important and they believe that businesses should have a bigger impact on society. They are not concerned about the hierarchy that comes with traditional leadership but value a leader who uses more collaboration and cross-functional teams. They desire employee/personal growth, making a positive contribution to society and their own well being.

One thing that has not changed: Leaders have a responsibility to challenge their people to grow. Employee growth, personally and professionally, help improve their creativity and morale. It is possible to push people too far or into a direction that they are not interested in or prepared to perform. A good leader will find people’s limits and their desires through employee coaching. Good coaches will listen to the employee more than they talk, paraphrasing their desires to ensure that they understand what the employee wants and will set goals with (not for) the employee. This ensures that they are part of their own destiny. Once an employee knows what they want to achieve, a leader can help them reach and achieve more.

1 Corinthians 10:13 “God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear…”

God also is concerned about our personal growth and as a good coach, He will be faithful to us; God keeps His promises. The struggle between God and Satan remains strong and the old Adam in us can be tempted quite easily. We know God loves us and that despite our free will to choose, He will not let us be tempted beyond what we can bear. Our sin and our inability to follow the Ten Commandments is why God had to send His only Son to be our savior; with Jesus Christ we are free from the bondage of our sin.

God is active in our lives, providing options for us to choose from in how we live. God is working His plan in our lives despite our free will choices. God wants us close to Him and, through the Bible, has given us the best plan to live this life. Our faith in Jesus and God’s grace is what allows us to be tempted and fail at times but to still have forgiveness of our sins. God is faithful! He kept His promise of salvation for us through Jesus. We all sin and may at times feel unworthy; God’s grace and the sacrifice that Jesus made for us on the cross makes us all worthy regardless of our own actions.