Shepherds

This verse is generally perfect when discussing accountability at work or as a bridge to a “take care of your people” writing. Given today’s emotional climate, I’d like to simply focus on shepherding. Looking after the flock is an essential function of leadership, no matter what position we’re talking about. The real issue is how you do it; as a herder you can walk behind them as they walk along the path and keep the strays in line or you can walk in front leading the way knowing that you’ll still have them when you turn around as a Shepherd does. We’re seeing various forms of the shepherd concept of leadership in these trying times, crisis leadership is crucial in getting people to follow. Sheep herders use dogs to chase around the edges to keep the herd moving forward; if you see someone using others to “chase around the edges”, check the leadership style of the one you’re following.

We need leaders who are looking after us and our needs and who aren’t sending others or themselves out to chase the edges. In a time of crisis, we are ALL leaders and can shepherd people toward calm by being reassuring, direct, honest and accountable. As a greater society, we owe each other a little bit of personal accountability – stay home if you are sick and commit to helping those in need. When we return to a state of equilibrium, the world around us will look much different. Everyone will need to work together so that we can all rise up from the new normal. You could be the next shepherd; will you lead from the back or boldly from the front?

Ezekiel 34:12 “As a Shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all places where they were scattered…”

We are God’s sheep and it is great to have a Shepherd that cares about us as much as He does. He gave up His son for our salvation and ever lasting life. God is always present in our lives and will come to our rescue, even when we’ve put distance between us. God’s “rescue” does not mean that we will get what we want, it may mean that we get just enough because the real rescue happened on Easter Sunday. We need to do our best and prevent the need for a rescue in the first place. We should be spending time with God, praying, reading the word and spreading the good news.

Today, more than ever, we need a strong leader. God gave us the perfect one, Jesus. He is patient with us as we make mistakes, He’d hold us accountable as He did with the disciples but, in the end, no matter how many mistakes we make, Jesus will rescue us (usually from ourselves) as the Shepherd does with His flock. On Easter, we were given the grace of God in the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. While you are focusing on being a good Shepherd in your daily life or in your vocation, focus also on being a good sheep (follower). Rejoice that your Father cares so deeply that He will risk a lot to rescue you from all of the places that you can scatter to or from all the trials that this world can throw at you.

Go Confidently into 2020

I’d like to end this decade with a reminder for us all and another departure from my usual format. Let’s start this week with the verse, very appropriate for both the Christmas holiday that just past and the start of a new year.

“God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them.” 2 Corinthians 5:19

This is why we had Christmas – so God could reconcile with the world. His people, born of sin, could not be with Him in eternal life unless we had a savior. This is great news! But think about what this verse means for you in 2020. God is NOT counting your sins against you! Sin is not measured by severity; every sin is the same and we can’t stop ourselves from doing it – no matter how hard we try. Just as we think we are living really good lives and following the commandments, we will sin again. If you become so confident that your godly life is more pleasing to God – you’re sinning. The complaining that you do about your boss or that one family member – you’re sinning. We can’t help it!

There is an old saying, “what would you do if you knew that you couldn’t fail?” We can be so afraid of ourselves or of our lives that we simply give up trying. For some people, this fear can be paralyzing. They are afraid to try things or to explore new ideas because they are afraid to fail. Others will get so down on themselves because of sin that they give up on getting to know God. They’ll say, “God could never forgive me for what I’ve done”. God has already forgiven them, you and me! Our sins have been erased through our faith in Jesus Christ. He took them all to hell and left them with the devil. Sin has no place in our lives. God does not and will not count them against us because He loves us as any Father would love His children.

Start 2020 confidently and don’t worry about sin being an anchor in your life. We are all special people in God’s eyes, so go strongly, boldly and confidently into the next decade – like you can’t fail. Trust in God, rely on Him for guidance and strength and see what happens. Happy New Year!

Walking in Darkness

Communication is a true art. Books have been written about how to do it better. How many times have you had a fight with someone only to find out “that’s not what I meant”? We all need to keep communications open with the people that we interact on a regular basis. For men, we can go months without speaking to a good friend, pick up the phone and call, and then carry on like no time has past. Unfortunately for us, we try this same approach with many of our other relationships and we fail miserably. Leaders are best served when they engage in what some call “touching base” and others call “checking in”.

The world around us is changing constantly and people need to know what is going on around them. If they are worried about the latest rumor, they won’t focus on their job and then you’ll be forced into communicating with them under unpleasant circumstances. The old saying “you can’t treat people like mushrooms” is true; keeping them in the dark and feeding them crap just won’t work. People need light and encouragement from their leaders. When we engage people in sharing the facts, regardless of how the circumstances may “look”, they will appreciate knowing that they are truly part of the team.

“The people walking in the darkness have seen a great light: on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” Isaiah 9:2

Living in the shadow of death without hope of eternal life is unimaginable to me. The sad truth however, is that there are people living in those shadows. They walk in darkness and despair without hope because they don’t know about the light of Christ. The problems of their lives become overwhelming and they sink further into the darkness. This time of year is especially troubling for some; they need to know that people care.

Witnessing to people is one of the hardest things that we can do because we feel so exposed by the possibility of being rejected. Sometimes we’re not confident in our knowledge of bible verses or we simply don’t want to be pushy. It takes courage to overcome these fears. Ask God for help. Maybe this blog post is that help. You don’t need to go around quoting the bible or offering street corner sermons. Simply reminding people that there are options and that no matter what they’ve done, God loves them. If nothing else, share your story and talk about how your life is filled with the light of God. We have seen a great light! Now, go and share it!

Love Covers…

“If everyone was perfect like you and I, we’d have a lot fewer problems” was something my mother would jokingly say. We all have imperfections and weakness that we expect others to overlook but often we have trouble overlooking them in others. If you reverse my mother’s saying – “If everyone was just as cracked and broken as we are, we’d have a lot more problems”. Imagine the personality imperfections that you have (I know it’s hard too) and then add them to the people you deal with on a regular basis. By the way, they get to keep the imperfections that they already have. How does that picture look? Rick Warren in his now famous book “The Purpose Driven Life” talks about giving people a little more grace. He calls them “EGR – Extra Grace Required” people. These are the people who really test you and your ability to overlook their imperfections.

I would imagine that we all have them in our lives but if you are an EGR person? Have you taken personal stock of yourself to see how you treat others or what demands you put on those around you? Are you tolerant of others? As a society we can better coexist if we become more tolerant of each other and our differences. Unfortunately, we have people in this world guided by the opportunity to take advantage of the weaknesses of others. I would suggest that we all give the same grace to others that we receive and if you still feel under appreciated, give more.

“Whoever would foster love covers over an offense” Proverbs 17:9

We are often reminded of Jesus telling us to turn the other cheek. I suspect that this is the way we heard about being tolerant of others. Sure they will strike you, but give them the other cheek too. As I wrote last week, what if God wasn’t tolerant with us? On some level, we offend Him every day and yet He still loves us. As in all cases, God does as He says; fostering love to cover over an offense.

I make the connection with this verse to fostering grudges, seeking revenge or retaliating against others. None of those things foster love. They feel good because they are the work of the devil and he wants us to go against what God wants in our life so he gives it a little extra. No, I’m not saying that all things that feel good are a product of the devil. The fight of good verse evil in our lives is constant and when God is winning, the devil will make evil feel just a little better. Love, patience and compassion are just a few of the actions that we can take toward each other. God has filled the bible with behaviors that if everyone followed them, we’d have a lot fewer problems.

 

Open Door Policy

Its been a while since I’ve written a straight-up leadership post, so this week I thought I’d address the “open door policy”. As I’ve studied leadership over the years, it has been interesting to see how this phrase even emerged into leadership. The autocratic management style (do as I say) was very strong in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. Workers didn’t ask questions, offer their opinions or make suggestions for process improvements and heaven forbid they sought advice from their leaders. I’m sure this was the period that created the phrase “the daily grind”, for good reason. As the workforce became more disgruntled, someone had the idea that asking the workers what they needed might make a difference. Tom Peters became an office name since everyone was reading his groundbreaking books about new age leadership and creating employee involvement.

Leaders started telling employees that their office doors were open and that they could come in anytime with ideas and complaints. Over time, leaders slid back into being managers as bottom line pressures increased and soon the open doors became metaphorically closed. No one dared to go into an office and when they did, managers were not interested in hearing what they had to say. Workforce satisfaction has since fallen and it wasn’t until the workplace disruption of a company called Google and all of their “crazy philosophies” that it changed. Unfortunately, managers claim to have “open door policies” and they still don’t see employees coming in. “I have an open door policy. I don’t know why we have all of these problems”, is commonly cried. I’d suggest that while the door is open, the mind is closed. If you manage or lead people, evaluate your effectiveness in regard to employee engagement. Old dogs can learn new tricks, its called evolution. Are you evolving or just existing?

“Through faith in Jesus we may approach God with freedom and confidence.” Ephesians 3:12

The famous Catholic confessional starts with “Forgive me father for I have sinned…”. Depending on what Christian denomination you were raised in or taught in, the father in this confession is the Catholic Priest. I’m not going to engage in a theological discussion about the biblical origin of this belief, but I do want to discuss our ability to approach God at any time and for any reason. St. Paul writes in this letter to the Ephesians that our faith in Jesus allows us to approach God – freely and confidently. God has an open door policy – literally and metaphorically.

We do not need a mediator to speak for us to God. The punishment, death and resurrection of Jesus was all of the intervention that we needed with God. Jesus did for us what we could never do, live a life that keeps all of God’s commands. Quite simply, we sin constantly. We can go to God and confidently know that our sins are forgiven because of what Jesus did for us. We can’t pray sin away, we can’t perform works or pay for forgiveness; we are already forgiven. Go confidently and with freedom into your life knowing that you can turn to God for help and forgiveness at any time.

Always Present

They say that the only thing that is consistent about our world today is that change will happen. Streaming plans are changing, the world stock markets have been changing (hourly) and our access to information can change our point of view in an instant. I can’t take credit for creating it but I’ve been repeating a phrase for years – Semper Gumby; always flexible. It seems that things are changing so much that everyone must have a little Semper Gumby in them. How do you react to change? Are you a resister that has to be convinced that change is good or are you one of those people who jumps right on board with the change? There are a few people out there who are the objectors and will fight change right until the end. It’s important to know what role you play when change comes knocking.

The opposite of change is consistency. There is a lot to be said for being consistent; it can also lead to routine and ruts but let’s stay positive. As a worker, a spouse, a family member or a supervisor, the people around us appreciate a little consistency. No one likes guessing which version of a person will show up from one day to the next. Consistent quality of your work is important too. When people can count on you to deliver consistent work products, not only do you improve their lives but you raise your worth or value to them. For as often as things can change, they can stay the same. They say that history often repeats itself, which for me means, there is a little consistency out there. The specific names and places might be different but the circumstances are often the same. So, while things around us seem to changing at what appears to be a break-neck pace, know where you fall in the spectrum of change but also embrace the consistency of life to be that one person people can count on.

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Hebrews 13:8

This verse can become a great anchor point for our lives as we struggle with the constant changes in our lives. The world markets went on another wild ride these past few weeks and people started worrying about the future. Thousands of people sold stock out of fear despite the warnings that the ride was temporary and a needed adjustment. It is almost the example of quitting when things got bad. Do you cut and run when things get bad? The devil would like you to do that, turn from God and take matters into your own hands. If we turn away when things get bad and rely on our own ways and not God’s, we have taken the temptations of the devil.

We have consistency in God, through His Son Jesus, that we will be protected and have eternal life. There were no recounts in the bible of God’s love changing or of Jesus changing His ministry. Jesus remained consistent to the Prophet’s teachings right through His own death. God remained consistent with His desire to have His children close by Him and providing for their needs; even when His children disobeyed Him. God’s continued grace and mercy was given to us through His Son Jesus Christ, given to die for our sins, so that we may have consistency in an eternal life with Him. Sure, the world has changed over the thousands of years but God’s love has been consistent.

Live Life to the Fullest

Have you ever said, “What am I doing here?” or “How did I get here?” These phrases are usually uttered in frustration with either the people or circumstances around you or at yourself for not paying closer attention to what was happening in your life. Many people have said that they “will never drink again” following a wild night and yet do it again days or weeks later. And yet, we continue to wonder what we are doing with our lives. This internal struggle ends in suicide for far too many people. I often write about God’s plan for us and that we simply can’t accept what it is because of our own need to be in control. We see numerous people who are living their lives disconnected from a purpose. There are numerous examples of positive people whose lives bring meaning to others and there are also examples of people who appear to be suffering for no reason at all.

We cannot understand these examples because we see them through our human eyes. We apply our reasoning, free will and our understanding to something that is being controlled by God. The sick person is an inspiration to others just as much as the MVP of a professional sport – hopefully more so. Our lives are a gift and every day is special. How do you look at the day ahead of you? I post this blog early in the morning on Monday in hope that it will inspire your week. I think it works. I have no idea how many people read this, share it or what impact it has. I do know that each week I get another person following the blog, so I keep writing. How do you live and inspire others? Is inspiring others a goal in your life. Many people believe that they aren’t capable of doing that because we are programmed to think that only celebrities or people in the news can do that. Every day, all of us can inspire others through a smile, a helping hand, a kind word, not saying what you really think, serving others, you name it. We can live very satisfying lives by putting others first and then watch what we get back in return. Everything you do is important to someone, do everything to your best.

“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10

No one knows what life after death is really like. What is eternal life? I have to imagine that if you are reading this blog that you are waiting to find out because you believe that you have eternal life through your faith in Jesus Christ. God Himself has promised us eternal life. In both the Old and New Testaments, God promises eternal life. We have no idea what it means but we believe it. Jesus reminds us in this verse that He came to give us all life and not just life on earth. He took all of our transgressions, accepted the punishment that we deserved, and he suffered so that we could have eternal life and share it with Him.

Stop and think, Jesus did all this for us, shouldn’t we live our lives to the fullest as a living example of His grace? Jesus did not suffer so that we could ignore the teachings of the bible and “live our own lives”. God did not send His one and only Son into the world so that we would live in fear. Living life to the fullest is not permission to live selfishly, it is permission to live a life that inspires others, one that shares the good news and one that demonstrates love; the kind of love Jesus taught us about. Live your life to the fullest in Jesus.

Wisdom of Martin Luther

On one of my many flights, I was reading from a book titled “Concerning Christian Liberty” written by Martin Luther. Of course, it is a reprint but it has been an interesting read from someone who brought Christianity into everyone’s hands. His study and perspective are based on the writings of the bible; his insights are raw and his life was fascinating. Anyway, as I read this before Easter, I couldn’t help but think that his words provide another great summary of what Christianity is. Enjoy the exerpt:

“Christ was sent for no other office than that of the word… What is this word, and by what means is it to be used, since there are so many words of God? As the Apostle Paul explains: to preach Christ is to feed the soul, to justify it, to set it free, and to save it, if one believes the preaching. Martin Luther references this verse to justify his comments: If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”(Romans 10:9) 

“Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believes”(Romans 10:4) and the just shall live by faith. For the word of God cannot be received and honored by any works, but by faith alone. Hence it is clear that as the soul needs the word alone for life and justification, so it is justified by faith alone, and not by any works. For if it could be justified by any other means, it would have no need of the word, nor consequently of faith. But this faith cannot consist at all with works; that is, if you imagine that you can be justified by those works, whatever they are, along with it.

 Therefore, when you begin to believe, you learn at the same time that all that is in you is utterly guilty, sinful, and damnable, according to that saying, “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God”(Romans 3:23) 10There is no one righteous, no, not one; 11 there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. 12 All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”(Romans 3:10-12)

 When you have learned this, you will know Christ is necessary for you, since He has suffered and risen again for you, that, believing in Him, you might by this faith become another man, all your sins be remitted, and you being justified by the merits of another, namely of Christ alone. Therefore, the first care of every Christian ought to be to lay aside all reliance on works, and strengthen his faith alone – more and more, and by it grow in the knowledge, not of works, but of Christ Jesus, who has suffered and risen again for him. Faith, which is the brief and complete fulfilling of the law, will fill those who believe with such righteousness that they will need nothing else for justification.”

May the Peace of Christ and the Grace of God be with you this week!

 

 

Chill a little

Self-discipline is a funny thing. In one way it makes us stronger and more focused than someone without it but in another, it makes us so determined that we lose the ability to see the simple things around us. It also has the ability to force us to do things that we might otherwise, simply blow-off. I’ve been pretty self-disciplined my whole life; I had goals to reach and found ways to complete them. When one road was blocked, I found a path that would lead me to another road headed in the direction that I wanted to go. This type of drive can become consuming and before you know it, you aren’t paying attention to the things that are changing around you. My son is often reminding me to “just relax and chill a little”.

He is often right but I still have trouble getting my head around his happy-go-lucky life; I do need to chill out a little bit. Between my re-election campaign being in full swing, my travel schedule, my special projects and, work demands I could use a little less drive and a little more chill. Self-discipline won’t let us ignore the commitments that we’ve made, nor should we. However, it should also teach us to balance ourselves and take time for ourselves and each other. Look around the world at the top athletes and you will see very self-disciplined people. You will also see people so absorbed in themselves that they lose sight of the things that matter most. Stay balanced!

“For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7

God never intended for us to be timid; He wants us to be bold and social. We are supposed to be sharing God’s word with a world that needs salvation and we can’t do that when we sit quietly by ourselves. God’s Spirit gives us power and love to be there for other people or to openly share God’s message. We should have the confidence to stand tall in the face of all adversity because God has given us the strength to do it. No matter what is before you, you have the power of God’s spirit by your side. When you are troubled, turn to God for strength to knock those troubles down.

God’s love for you will protect you and He is always there for you. One part of self-discipline is that we remember to do what God has asked of us too. We may be driven in this life, have great goals for our careers, and can even pave new roads to success but if we are not disciplined to be faithful to God by growing and sharing in His love, what is the use? God says to us “chill a little” on those earthly wants and needs and give Me a little time. Learn what God has in mind for us, learn what love really is and learn what real self-discipline is by knowing how Jesus gave His life for us. He could have changed course when things got bad or quit when He found out that He was to die. Jesus had the self-discipline to stay the course that God had chosen for Him. God isn’t asking much of us, just a little time with Him and less in this world. Go chill with God.

Merry Christmas!

Tomorrow we celebrate the birth of savior, Jesus Christ. God recognized that we couldn’t obey the law that He had given to us. God knew that we were simply too involved in ourselves to be faithful to Him. However, God also knew that He could not forsake us and that His love for us was greater than His disappointment. We learn throughout the bible that God foresaw this as He continued to tell of a savior throughout the Old Testament. His angels had been preparing the way. John the Baptist was busy in the Jordan River preparing for the coming of Jesus. Mary was spoken to by the Angel Gabriel in preparation for her role in saving the world. Elizabeth was given a child as a further sign by God of the miraculous things to come.

All signs pointed to the new King and Jesus revealed himself as an adult when God was ready for Him to begin His work. The bible has been the most scrutinized “book” in history. It has been authenticated to within years of accuracy, closer than any other historical document. God so ordered the world to allow this “proof” to exist. The bible is God’s word, given to us as a testament to His love for us.

“And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the Gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit. Ephesians 1:13

We have all been marked with the seal of the Holy Spirit! Now that’s something to celebrate. God gave us His only Son to save the world; He gave us His Devine Word to read and understand; He gave us eternal life through Jesus Christ. Mankind has never done anything to be worthy of eternal life and never can. No amount of works or prayer or tithing can give us what Jesus Christ did.

It’s only God’s promise and His love for all of His children that allows us to be with Him forever in heaven. Jesus took all of our sins and all of our faults with Him on the cross and left them in hell. When He ascended into heaven, he took us with Him there too, leaving us innocent in God’s eyes. We became marked with a seal only possible through our faith in Jesus Christ. We not only should celebrate the birth of our savior but we should celebrate God’s love for us.

Merry Christmas!