Make A Difference

Make a Difference Day is officially October 28th this year. Each year, our city has about one hundred people volunteer to perform projects all around our city. We’ve had Boy Scout troops, church groups, a group from a local college, several high school groups, and various community minded residents all volunteer to make a difference. So what is this day all about? According to Makeadifferenceday.com; “For more than 25 years, USA WEEKEND Magazine and Points of Light have joined together to sponsor Make A Difference Day, the largest national day of community service. Millions of volunteers around the world unite in a common mission to improve the lives of others.” As an annual event in our city, it always seems to get me thinking about why should we make a difference just one day a year?

We all make a difference to someone, each and every day. Sometimes we know when we do and other times we don’t. We all do our jobs faithfully, day in and day out. We don’t really expect people to notice what we’re doing. Many times you will hear a public safety professional say, “We were just doing our jobs”. In reality, they were making a difference. Today, as you read this, I challenge you to make a difference for someone. Go out of your way to help someone. A few years ago this was often referred to as, “random acts of kindness”. I’m not saying hold open a door; I’m challenging you to put someone else’s needs before your own. You’ll never know what impact you might have on someone’s life.

“If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!” Ecclesiastes 4:10

Make a difference, today and everyday, had to be what Jesus was trying to teach His disciples. However, Ecclesiastes was written in the Old Testament. On the surface it sounds like we are being told to make sure that we have friends so they can help you up when you fall. If it was that simple, we wouldn’t have half the troubles we have today. What about the man who has no one to help him up? Who will help him? God’s commandments teach us to love one another (among other things) and to care for each other.

This means everyone, not just our friends. God took His love for us and sent us a “friend” that will never leave our side; Jesus Christ. No matter what is happening in your life, you are never alone. God is with you. When you feel distant, God is with you, just hold out your hand and open your heart. When you feel cold and alone, close your eyes and feel God’s warmth surround you. You are forgiven for everything you’ve done. Jesus, your friend, has helped you up after you’ve fallen. He sacrificed everything so that we could have eternal life. Now that is someone who made a difference!

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The Good Shepherd

Some people call it micro-managing, some call it accountability while others will call it babysitting; but looking after our flock is an essential function of leadership. 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. How do you lead? The Shepherd concept of leadership is also important to how your people respond to you. Sheepherders use dogs to chase around the edges to keep the herd moving forward; if you find yourself chasing around the edges after your people, check your leadership style.

You should be looking after your people but you shouldn’t have to chase them down. Maintaining accountability of assignments without chasing them down can be a real challenge. Using a good coaching model combined with a strong vision will help you lead from the front. The concept of rescuing them means that you will put yourself at some risk to help them. The best strategy for performing a “rescue” is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Spend time in the beginning to give them the training and tools needed to execute their jobs.

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 wanted, 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.

The bible is a coaching tool that has eternal implications. Imagine Jesus as your supervisor, what kind of leadership would He provide? Jesus would be patient with us as made mistakes but He’d also hold us accountable as He did with the disciples. In the end, no matter how many mistakes we make, Jesus will rescue us (usually for 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 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.

Consistent to a Fault

I will keep mentioning the presidential campaign season in the United States every few weeks only because it brings out the worst in people. The candidates get ruder or more deceitful as the process grinds on. People in America start to believe the things that are being said with more passion as their favorite candidate rises in the polls. It isn’t a pretty reflection of us as an American people but it does highlight one of the most important aspects of freedom – the democratic process of free speech. The problem with the campaigns and free speech is that people can say and do pretty much anything they want during an election.

When a candidate goes around in February telling everyone they believe in topic or position now, usually because it will get votes, but have a voting record of supporting a different position; they are usually labeled a “flip-flopper”. Often times, being inconsistent like that is a bad thing. No one likes it when their boss is inconsistent or applies the rules in a haphazard manner. Kids don’t like it when their parents say something is okay one day and then it’s not the next. We really don’t like it when our friends are like that. We want to be able to count on them – always. If they are inconsistent with their loyalty or follow through on doing what they said they’d do, we get very frustrated. As a leader, I often said that I would be consistent to a fault. I would treat the worst employee the same as the best employee. I would hear their frustration from time to time but being predictable made people comfortable and that allowed me to help them achieve what they wanted to; they could count on me. Take a moment to examine yourself and your actions to see if you are consistent and reliable. If you find yourself saying, “I am but…” then you’ve got work to do. As human beings, we need a certain level of consistency to feel safe and assured. It’s in the wild that things are never consistent and the animals are living in fear of the next predator; is that how you want people to feel around you?

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

Like a good friend, Jesus is consistent in our lives. He never changed His perspective no matter what group He was speaking to or who was challenging Him. He treated the Pharisees the same as He did those that came to hear Him teach. He taught love and compassion everywhere He went. Jesus was the same, everyday, no matter what. I imagine myself getting frustrated by the people “always wanting something from me” if I could do what Jesus did. I could see myself wanting to lay low for just a few days before getting back out on the road. But I’m not Jesus – thankfully.

Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior; the Son of God, was the same every day. His consistency teaches us today about how to live good Christian lives. We should be generous with those in need and provide help to those in trouble. We are not to judge others based on our own beliefs or understanding. Jesus also teaches us to rely on Him in all we do. Jesus is consistent in His care of our needs. He is consistent with His distribution of salvation. Jesus does not say, “I don’t want to take the sins of that one but I will for this one”. He took everyone’s sin away so that we all can live eternal lives with God regardless of what they are – no but’s or exceptions.

Easter is the reason for our faith

Happy Easter Monday! For some reason this Easter really hit home for me, from a “Christian Church” perspective. I’ve always known it but I wanted to write about it this week because, Easter is really the point of our Christian faith. We say at Christmas that we should remember the reason for the season but Easter is the whole point. As Christians, we have nothing without Easter Sunday. So, I’m going to write this week’s devotion a little, okay a lot, differently. I want to focus on the whole message of what the third day really represents and start with a prayer first:

Almighty God the Father, open our eyes to see hope eternal in the empty tomb and let us rejoice. Through Your only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, You have overcome death and opened the gate of everlasting life to us. Grant that we, who celebrate with joy the day of our Lord’s resurrection, may be raised from death of sin by Your life-giving Spirit; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

St. Paul writes in a letter to the Corinthians about the resurrection of Christ Jesus. I have nothing to add this week but his words, which were divinely inspired by God. In this letter we see God’s grace; we see that no matter what we’ve done, we are forgiven and; we know that we have hope in our lives. 1Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. 3For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5and that he appeared to Peter and then to the Twelve. 6After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. 9For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. 11Whether, then, it was I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.” 1 Corinthians 15:1-11.

I pray that you are reminded that God is with you and that Jesus died for all of our sins. It is because of His death that we now can enjoy eternal life.

Easter Monday

I hope everyone had a Happy Easter. It’s a great time of year! I was particularly moved today by the readings we had in church and decided to write a devotion that is mostly Bible verses. While this too, is a departure from my normal process, I felt it was appropriate to continue the discussion about our salvation. 34 “Then Peter began to speak: ”I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism 35but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right. 36You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is LORD of all. 37You know what has happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached— 38how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him. 39“We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, 40but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. 41He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen—by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. 43All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” Acts 10:34-43

The story of Jesus gathered up here in 9 verses, God truly works in mysterious ways. Accepting that God inspired the words written in the bible is accepting that these words are also from God. The real “story” of Jesus is the message in verse 43 in which we receive forgiveness of sins through Him. Pause and think about that for a minute, forgiveness of sins – all sins. Nowhere does it say that forgiveness is limited to a specific number of sins, the type of sins or whom we commit them against; we can receive forgiveness for all of our sins. Live your life free from the guilt and slavery of sin. We have the ability to do it and God gave us the directions how to through St. Paul who wrote: 15”Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. 16Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. 17And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the LORD Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:15-17

We celebrated the resurrection of Jesus Christ today. We celebrate our salvation and life everlasting because of God’s grace in our lives. Jesus took the guilt and sin of the whole world with him on Good Friday as He suffered and descended into hell. All of that would have been for nothing if He hadn’t been raised on the third day. We celebrate our salvation because of what God did for us. St. Paul reminds us to live in peace and do everything in the name of Jesus. Have peace this week as you celebrate your salvation.

Not Your Usual Post

There is no way that I can stick to my usual format this week, its Holy Week after all. I’m sure that my observations about workplace practices and leadership opportunities are not what draw you here. Despite what I’d like to think, I’m pretty confident that there is something about the spiritual context that keeps you reading. So, in true “inspiration” I’m devoting this week to a passage that I heard this morning in church. I usually stay away from the sermon messages as a point of inspiration; God has already done His work through the Pastor and doesn’t need me plagiarizing that. What I found interesting was how this passage, one that I’ve read several times before, was framed into Holy Week. In spring bible study, we examined Philippians but today, it seemed to mean so much more. Paul wrote: “5Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross! 9Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is LORD, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:5-11

There are a number of lessons to be taken away from these few verses but what really stuck out to me was how this describes the whole point of the New Testament – God sending His one and only Son to be our Savior. A simple and humble man, who had the power and wisdom of God but choose to be a servant. He lived an obedient life to God, suffered through a crucifixion as punishment for our sins, not His and died for us. All of this was done to, once and for all, free us from the chains of sin by believing that “Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

This is what Holy Week is all about. This is why we must remember that the prophet’s had spoken of this week and that Jesus knew His fate but carried on in obedience. God kept His promise to Jesus by seating Him in a place of honor and he kept His promise to us by sending a Savior. Rejoice this week and celebrate Jesus’ strength in the face of great sacrifice. He did it all for us! Lets give thanks and rejoice. Happy Easter!

No more excuses…

No more excuses, I need to do a little more explaining about my tardiness in posting. This week I’ve been in what I call the new “Sin City”, Washington DC. Every year, a couple of thousand local public officials invade DC for a few days of learning and to meet with their Congressional Delegations to discuss issues that affect us at the City level. Being from Arizona, this trip is a double-edged sword because half of our delegation is never there and the other half that is there, at times, is indifferent to local issues. Not to mention the gridlock currently underway. The flipside is that as we gather to exchange ideas and information, we become stronger community leaders. It was a good trip for me; I strengthened my understanding in a few areas and gained new perspectives in a couple of more. However, as far as my Monday morning commitment is concerned, I missed yet another deadline due in part to my schedule in DC. I have also been a graduate student in the Public Administration Program at Grand Canyon University since last October, which has challenged me in a number of ways including time management. This part of my website is very important to me. Someone asked me, “couldn’t you just write a bunch at one time and then schedule them to be posted?” The short answer is no. It is interesting how God works in this situation. I look at a bunch of bible verses searching for something relevant or current and let God do the rest. He has been inspiring each one of these so I don’t just “crank them out”. I think that is why this is so important to me, and hopefully, you are inspired too. I look at who is receiving or viewing these every week and have a truly worldwide audience; which is humbling in and of its self.  I know that my readers forgive me but I wanted you to know what has been slowing me down. Thanks.

“Words from a wise man’s mouth are gracious, but a fool is consumed by his own lips.”  Ecclesiastes 10:12

I never started this website to share my opinion; I started it to share leadership principles and God’s word. Over time it has moved from leadership of the workplace to leadership of life. Once in a great while, I’ll share something about a project that I’ve worked on. Most of what I do in management consulting is pretty straightforward and not very glamorous. I meet great people and love working with municipal governments and once in a while, the US Military. Some say that I am wise but all I do is share what is already available and help municipal clients put it into order. A fool is consumed by his lips when he is just spewing opinion of which he has no real experience or education. A wise man however, one who is experienced and educated, is gracious. What kind of a disciple are you – a fool or a wise man? When we read the word and live by the word, we are both educated and experienced. We all make mistakes along the way but do we always learn from them? If we do, we remain wise. This time leading up to Easter that we call lent, is a time for us to reflect on the sacrifice that Jesus made for us. It is also a time for us to reflect on the grace of God who sent us a Savior so that we could spend eternal life with our Father in heaven. This is a great time to become wise and help the fools to see that their focus is misplaced.

Confession, work and priorities

I’ve been writing this blog since January of 2012 and have produced a weekly devotion no matter what – vacations, out of town for work, projects, etc. I made it a point to make sure that I had one scheduled to post so that no matter how busy I was or where I was traveling; I would keep my self-imposed deadlines. I failed this week in making my deadline – 4am Arizona time. I’m never up at that hour but my blog is working to keep my commitment to myself and to my witnessing. I wrote a post in February of 2012 called “Who are you working for?” I found the answer to that question this weekend: I’m working for the “man” and that the “man” is me! I was working to finish a project for a client while completing a proposal for another project and I lost control of my weekend. I even worked late into the night on Sunday! So much for remembering the Sabbath and keeping it Holy. Now that I’m done confessing, let’s turn back to the work at hand – sorry pun intended. I was caught up in doing my very best work not only for our current client but also for a future one. My name is on those documents and I want them to be a reflection of the pride that I take in my work. We often hear the phrase “working for the man” when people describe their jobs. I’d like to suggest that you consider yourself working as though you are working for God or Jesus Christ and that God shows through in everything that you do. If you had to go to work everyday for God, I bet you would approach your work much differently than you do today. Change your outlook and do your best, at all times and at the end of the day pause, close your eyes, tilt your head towards heaven and imagine God’s smile and a wink. You’ve done a good job today!

Colossians 3:23-24 “What ever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men… It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”

Do your friends and family ever wonder why you work so hard or have patience for the work you do? The “man” doesn’t care how hard you work, just keep showing up, keep your mouth shut and do your job. Working for the “man” is what many people are destined to do. The “man” in Paul’s letter is the Lord. Feels different now doesn’t it? We are a reflection of the goodness of God and all that Jesus Christ taught us about living our lives. He didn’t say, “go and work just for yourselves and leave the others to suffer”. Jesus taught us to care for each other and give willingly. Many of us do that and while it can be hard at times, we do a good job and are thankful for the opportunity. God’s plan for us includes using us as examples for others to see His goodness. When you smile at or encourage someone at work, you are reflecting God’s goodness. When you continue to work hard when everyone else is taking advantage of the workplace, you are reflecting God’s goodness. When you un-jam the copier after someone else walked away from it, you are reflecting God’s goodness. We can see God’s goodness if we just look for it – its everywhere. It is the Lord you are serving, do it with all of your heart!