Know How and Why you are Following?

Why do people follow those in Leadership positions? Is it because they HAVE to or is it because they are inspired to? We have many people whom we choose to follow and for a number of other reasons besides being inspired or being forced to because of their position. Some we follow because they are fighting the cause that we believe in (shared ideology) or some because they represent the same group that we associate with. What happens when our ideology or group association no longer line up with “norms” of the leader(s)? How do we lead others in our own lives; through coercion or inspiration? How/what are we following?

In our lives, we are all leaders or followers depending on the situation. At home, you may be the leader and other times, you are the follower – just ask a long-married man what role he has most often. Good followers, however, do not follow the leader blindly; they first understand the mission of the leader and follow them 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 your followers in the dark about where you are headed? Leadership is advanced ten-fold when we 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 foster an atmosphere that inspires innovation, allows people time to explore ideas and be creative which will pay dividends in morale and may produce better results and make the changes that are needed.

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

Jesus provided us with great examples of leadership. He was a great follower too – he fulfilled the prophets, flawlessly obeyed the Ten Commandments and never wavered in His ideology through and with His Father’s will. We will never be perfect, but we can use Jesus’ examples in our lives. When Jesus said “I will make you fishers of men” we know it was his way of saying: 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 led, 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.

Leading by Example

“Walk the Talk” is just another way of saying, “Lead by Example”. People often equate leading with leadership positions – supervisors, directors, Governors, CEOs, Presidents, or some other given title that is supposed to lead people. Regardless of your title, do you think of yourself as a leader? Every one of us holds a leadership position at some point during our day. Mothers and Fathers who lead their families by providing guidance and leadership to navigate the world we live in, business professionals who set the example for others to follow (good or bad), Pastors leading their churches, housekeepers setting the standard in hotels and so on. Walking the talk every minute of every day and not letting down even for a moment is actually easier than it sounds.

Regardless of your position, be aware that people are watching you. When we don’t do as we say, those around us will start asking, “Why should I trust this person? The military has a very good model for us to consider following when leading the way. The Generals running operations in the Middle East could certainly receive their reports and briefings from field units from the comfort of their offices in the Pentagon just as easily as they do from a forward command post in Afghanistan. They are in country just like the men and women they lead because setting the right example is important. They wear the same uniform, follow the same protocols and lead by example all of the time, not just when someone is looking. You may not always know it but someone is looking up to you every day. It might be the very customer that you are serving; they are looking to you as an example of good customer service. We are always being watched, let’s set the best example possible. 

Deuteronomy 5:33 – “Walk in all the way that the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days…”

Jesus left us a great example to follow and that’s exactly what God wants from us. God knows we’ll struggle, only Jesus was perfect; that’s why it’s called following and not duplicating. God wants us to walk in the way, do as Jesus did by loving each other, being compassionate and caring for others, forgiving others and ourselves and learning the word of God. God’s grace has given us eternal life – to live, prosper and prolong our days.

He asks that we follow the example provided by His son Jesus. Spend time learning the examples given to us in the bible and then put those examples in front of you everyday. Practice daily what you learn and imagine Jesus saying to you “do as I do”. Whether you are a designated leader or dedicated employee, people are watching you every day. Learning the lessons given to us by Jesus, we will not only lead people in our businesses but we will provide everyone around us with a great Christian example to follow. Walking in the way of the Lord will be easier than you think.

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.

The world around you

Today marks the start of Holy Week with the solemnness of Jesus’ crucifixion and His glorious resurrection three days later. This week should be about Jesus. There are a number of verses in the Bible that discuss what Jesus was saying and doing in His last week on earth. It is amazing to read that His disciples did not know what He was saying until it was too late. It makes me think about how I read the bible and what I might be missing. As I considered what to write for this important week, I wondered about the people who know Jesus but like the disciples, do not understand what is happening around them.

I’ve heard people say, “Sure I believe in God and that Jesus was His Son but I don’t get into the rest of the bible”. Perhaps you’ve heard someone say, “I go to church and that’s enough for God to know that I believe in Him”. I’m not warmed by either of these phrases but it is not for me to judge; that’s God’s call not mine. Do you really know what Jesus did for us and continues to do on our behalf? St Paul in a letter to the Philippians said, 12Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose”(Philippians 2:12-13). He suggests that we act the same no matter who is around. I can also hear Jesus saying this to me right now. Re-read it but think of Jesus saying it instead. This verse means much more now doesn’t it?

We owe our salvation to Jesus, who intervened on our behalf, but we owe our eternal lives to God who through His grace and mercy sent His Son to be punished for our sins. We can do nothing more at this point but believe in the word of God that we are saved through Jesus. Mark verse 9:24 says, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” Jesus taught us how to live our lives, what is important in this world and what we can do to enjoy eternal life with Him. If you have ever doubted, simply read the verses about Holy Week and give thanks for ALL that God has done for you. You will overcome any “unbelief” in no time.

Why are We Doing All of This?

As we come into this week, the week before we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, I thought a little deviation from the normal format would be okay. This time of year can be stressful and overwhelming. Presents to buy, parties and dinners to attend and, family gatherings to celebrate the holiday. As our nest becomes empty, my wife and I are realizing that the traditions of the past are slowly fading. We no longer have piles of presents for each kid under the tree and we don’t have to set up the video camera to tape Christmas morning reactions. We are a home in transition – adulthood we call it. But in the end, we all need to be reminded of the “reason for the season” and who better to tell the story than God Himself. St Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, inspired by God, reminds us of the true celebration.

Ephesians 1:3-14: “3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, 9 he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.

11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.

So, why celebrate at this time of year? We celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior and we celebrate this gift from God. Sure, this time of year can be overwhelming and stressful but God never said it was going to be easy. Take that stress out of your life and imagine the presents that you are buying and wrapping are for Jesus. Imagine that the parties and family gatherings are to celebrate Jesus’ birthday because – they are. Have a Merry Christmas!

 

Disciples

“If you hold to my teachings you are already my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31b-32.

I know what you’re thinking; this is not how he usually writes these! Scripture first? I needed to mix things up a little this week.

What did Jesus mean when he said “you are already my disciples”? What is a disciple anyway? A disciple is someone who is a follower; someone who believes and helps spread the good news of Jesus Christ. Jesus told us that if we “hold to my teachings” we are already His disciples. Holding to His teachings is Jesus’ way of telling us to grow in our faith so that we can overcome the pressures and troubles that we face every day in our lives. The Holy Spirit is in us and we should be in the Word every day; studying it, praying over it and obeying it.

According to Scripture, being a Christian disciple means that we should do these things:

  1. Putting Jesus first in all things (Mark 8:34-38). Our attention should be on our Lord and pleasing Him in every thing that we do. You can ask yourself, would Jesus like me to say this, do that or think those thoughts about someone?
  2. Following Jesus’ teachings (John 8:31-32). Jesus was the perfect example for us to follow because He lived His life perfectly.
  3. Fruitfulness (John 15:5-8). Our job is to believe in Jesus Christ, and if we do, the Holy Spirit will produce the fruit in us. This fruit will bring change to our lives as we grow closer to God our Father. We’ll have better thoughts, words and actions that will make Jesus smile.
  4. Love for other disciples (John 13:34-35). We are told to love our neighbors as ourselves. Love is all about actions. We should be thinking more about other people than we do about ourselves.
  5. Make disciples of others (Matthew 28:18-20). We are to share our faith and tell nonbelievers about the wonderful changes Jesus Christ has made in our lives. Sometimes we think that we can’t do it or that we might say the wrong thing. Remember, you have the fruit of the Holy Spirit growing in you and it makes a big difference.

This is the time of year that people are open to hearing about Jesus. Have you considered bringing your family or a friend to church with you? Think of it like when they come, they get a little bit of God on them each time. The more times they come, the more of God and the Holy Spirit they get on them and the closer they grow to God. Shouldn’t everyone be covered in the love of God? The last line of our verse is “Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” We know the good news of our savior Jesus Christ. We are free from sin because Jesus took them all to the cross with Him. We will have eternal life because of our faith in Him. We are free in the truth of Jesus Christ and our job, no matter how old we are, is to be good disciples and make disciples of others. Try to get everyone you know covered in God!

Calm out of Chaos

The old saying is that chaos breads discontent is very appropriate these days. American politics are getting more and more “angry” and people in general seem to tolerate a lot less from each other. Radical outbreaks are occurring all over the globe and terrorism is griping us all in our homelands. What is happening? Chaos has effects on our health, our mental state and how we live our lives. Some people choose to hide in hopes of it going away while others seems to thrive on the uncertainty and a few more like to make matters worse.

Chaos in the workplace is a common occurrence all too often as well. The top employers remain on top because they remember who is on the front lines with their customers; unhappy employees have a direct impact on customer service. Keeping employees happy is not about coddling them or offering Ping-Pong tables in the break room. Creating an engaged workforce can be a result of many different workplace strategies that are not always associated with pay and benefits. Good supervisors offer coaching, provide developmental opportunities and encourage teamwork as a way to create a peaceful work environment. Employees that are encouraged by their work, as Abraham Maslow told us, tend to perform at higher levels that often result in greater satisfaction and customer service excellence.

1 Corinthians 14:33 – “For God is not a God of disorder but of peace…”

God does not want us to live in disorder and chaos. Jesus Christ, was known as the Prince of Peace. Jesus was a great reconciler for us by bringing us to peace with God our Father. Jesus taught us to be humble, loving and forgiving of one another. These are all synonymous with peace.

God does not want us to live in fear but be loving and forgiving toward each other with the knowledge of everlasting life with Him through Jesus Christ. There is no greater display of peace but to promise ever lasting life in heaven with God our Father and His son, Jesus Christ. Now that’s peace! The disorder that we see all around us today is not created by God. Who better to use fear and chaos to turn us all away from God but the devil himself? It is our sinful self to use these events as temptation to turn away and believe in our own power rather than rely on our God of peace. Do not turn away but turn to God in prayer and find calm in His words.

You Can’t Fail

I’d like to end 2015 with a great reminder and another departure from my standard format. Let’s start this week with the verse that is 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 2016. God is NOT counting your sins against you! Sin is not measured by severity. It is all sin and we can’t stop ourselves from doing it. Just as we think we are living really good lives and following the commandments, we are still sinning. 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 our selves or our lives that we stop trying. For some people, this fear can be paralyzing. They are afraid to try things or 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 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 2016 confidently and don’t worry about sin being the anchor in your life. We are all special people in God’s eyes, so go strongly and confidently into 2016; like you can’t fail. Trust in God, rely on Him for guidance and strength and see what happens. Happy New Year!

 

From the Tops of Mountains

Yesterday, I was telling my brother a story about my son. Greg has a hard time understanding “spending habits” and what the consequences of bad habits are. I explained that you can literally hear him think because what ever is going through his mind comes right of his mouth. We had a good laugh at the almost eighteen year old’s expense. In the US, we are suffering through the start of the Presidential campaign season for 2016. This is a time when we get to hear from anyone interested in running for President and many of them have the same “problem” that my son has; we get to hear them think out loud.

Most of us do not go around and speak everything that is on our mind – thank goodness. We hold some things back to spare someone else’s feelings or we continue to support a friend instead of telling them the direct truth because the truth is too painful. Good or should I say smart husbands never answer their wives honestly when they are asked, “do these jeans make my butt look big?” I would suggest that sooner or later we start forgetting what is true anymore or how to be truthful. We seem to be answering circumstances “technically true” rather than simply true. Take a minute and think about how you communicate, when do spare someone’s feelings and when are you just not being truthful. I’m not suggesting that we go around being brutally honest; there is a fine line between civility and cruelty. What is on your heart is revealed in your words. The devil is trying to change your heart by changing your words and thoughts; stay vigilant!

“For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” Romans 10:10

God put His stamp on each of us and it was Him that sent a savior into the world. No matter what God did to steer us in the right direction; we still failed to obey His commands. But God did not give up on human beings; His love for us was still stronger than His anger or disappointment. In our heart of hearts, we believe in God. Some people want to see signs (Thomas), some believe because of their upbringing, some are confident and others yet do not believe at all. The ability to believe or not is within us.

Our hearts and our beliefs have justified us with God; we are free from punishment of the Law. It is our profession of faith that makes the bigger statement; it is what is on our hearts. People can walk around believing but without outward profession of faith they fall short. Profess your faith and you will be saved is the straightforward message of this verse. Give thanks before meals, even in public. Tell co-workers and neighbors about your confidence in the love of God our Father when the answer fits. We often hear about people who would “go to the top of a mountain to profess their love for a spouse” but would they climb that mountain to profess their faith in God and salvation through Jesus? Would you? It is your belief in Jesus as your savior that you will be saved, don’t be afraid to share salvation with everyone.

Who Cares?

What does compassion mean to you? People often believe that it is the ability to feel sorry for others and some believe that it is showing care for others. I’ve talked about showing grace towards others as means of sharing the teachings of Jesus, which to some is being compassionate. I’d suggest that the answer is really all of the above and may include several other aspects that I haven’t touched on. Personally, I find that compassion is best served with part humility and a big component of being genuine about the subject. I’ve had a few people in my life that, after I speak with or see them, who leave me feeling great. They have such a demeanor about them that you can’t help but be warmed by your interaction with them. They are kind, giving and rarely have anything negative to say.

The speaker at commencement last week offered several suggestions about having a successful career and life. One of the tips was to eliminate negative people from your life because they drain the energy out of your life. Compassionate people bring calm, understanding and positive emotions into our lives. They teach us how to look for the good in all things and how to accept the things that we cannot change. Most of us are compassionate about homelessness, poverty, children and the sick. What about the all of the other things in our lives that you can or should care about? There is a great line in the movie “Back to School” starring Rodney Dangerfield when he’s describing a teacher he has; “He seems to care, about what I don’t know”.

What do you care about and are there things that you should be more compassionate about? Our lives go so fast that we can miss opportunities to be more compassionate about more things. Commit to being more positive and strive to be the type of person that when you leave someone, they have a warm feeling inside because you were there.

“As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him.” Psalm 103:13

God cares about and has compassion on us in our weaknesses. How many of us would stick with friends or family that constantly failed to meet our needs or respect what we’ve asked of them? We are all weak from the original sin in our lives, yet God is compassionate towards us. Would you be that compassionate with people in your life? As a parent, I am compassionate with mistakes that my kids make, or the challenges that they present or the needs that they have. I’ve often said that the best supervisory training is parenting. God, as our Father, has compassion on us too. We see His compassion most brightly in the form of a Savior sent to redeem us for all eternity.

I do not fear God as the Psalmist did because of God’s compassion towards me and the grace that He gives me through His son Jesus Christ. Jesus intervened on our behalf with God and now we all can live in peace through Him. Just thinking about it gives me that warm feeling inside.