New Beginning

We are already two weeks into the new year; how are those resolutions coming? I’m feeling pretty optimistic about this year and for no particular reason. I hope that everyone is feeling this way. The start of a new year generally is something like a renewal of sorts. We have no idea what lies before us – challenge, opportunity, pain and joy; who knows? I’ve written before about how far these devotions have spread – South America, Russia, Italy, United Kingdom, Canada, Brazil and the U.S. I’m not mentioning this to boast but my point is that we never know who we touch with what we do. I had no idea how many people from outside the U.S. would ever receive my writings. January 12, 2012, I decided to write devotions for leaders that would help them and connect them to the word of God.

I set out to do something that I’d never done before, write devotions. I had no idea what to expect or what I was capable of doing. Would anyone read them? I took a chance to trust God and what He was guiding me to do. When I’m faced with an unknown, I like to say that I closed my eyes and jumped into the deep end. None of us know what 2019 has in store for us. We can look at this new year afraid and unsure or we can view it as an exciting time filled with new adventures and opportunities. We exchange a day of our lives for the things that we will do that day. When tomorrow comes, this day will be gone forever and in its place is something that we have left behind. Will you leave something good? Go out and have a great day, great week, great month and a great year!

“Put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” Ephesians 4:24

What makes us new? What is a new self? There are shelves filled with advice in most bookstores to help people answer these questions. The scripture answers them for us. Righteousness is defined as decent; ethical, principled, moral, high-minded, law-abiding, honest, honorable, blameless, irreproachable, and noble. When we read that we should be “like God” it seems a little extreme or nearly impossible to compare ourselves to Him but we can be like Him in righteousness.

Every one of us can be decent, ethical, principled, law-abiding and honest; we can be righteous. This is what St. Paul is urging the people of Ephesus to be – righteous. We too can put on a new self, one found in our faith in Jesus Christ who teaches us what righteousness is. We have the perfect leader and teacher in Jesus as told to us through God’s inspired words in the Holy Bible. It’s an awesome combination to help us put on our new selves. What will you exchange the days in your life for and what are you leaving behind? The simple thank you to someone at work, recognizing a job well done, doing a little extra just because or going out of your way to assist someone in need maybe all that you need to jumpstart your new self.

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Strategic Focus

My business partner and I just wrapped up a four-month strategic planning process for a community in Oklahoma. We use a slightly different approach to the traditional planning process where, instead of focusing on strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, we talk about strategic focus areas and the principles that guide them. Every community or organization has them. Sometimes they are found in mission or value statements but often they are representative of the things important to the organization. For example, every city, no matter its size, will focus on fiscal sustainability and transparency. In the past, strategic planning often focused on dreaming big – “what would we do if nothing stood in our way” thinking. In today’s reality, there are plenty of things to get in the way, so we ask our clients what is it that they are focused on and what principles are they based in. People, for the most part, can be the same – what are you focused on and what principles are those focused areas based in. Ask yourself, what am I focused on? How do you spend your time and what do you get from it? I’m not suggesting that if you spend your time watching TV for a couple hours at night and you’re not getting anything out of it that you should stop; I am suggesting that if ALL you do is watch TV when you aren’t at work, perhaps you can focus some time elsewhere. Once you determine what you are focused on, you can start to focus on why you do it and how you will do it. Bringing these things into perspective can help guide the choices that you make.

“Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfector of faith. For the joy set before Him, He endured on the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2

Talk about focus, Jesus had to keep His eye on where He was heading. Satan tried to blur Jesus’ focus when he tempted Him for 40 days. When God’s plan for His death was revealed to Him, Jesus remained focused on His goal of saving the lost. Even as He carried His own cross, Jesus remained focused on the goal of joining His Father in Heaven and defeating the devil once and for all. There were plenty of things to distract Him – fame, power, faithful disciples and the broken moral structure of the society that He lived in; yet Jesus remained focused. His strategic focus area was saving the world and He based that focus area on the guiding principles established by God – the Ten Commandments. Because of His focus, we too can focus on being good and faithful servants. Jesus took with Him, in His death, our sin and the guilt of breaking these principles. This freedom from sin allows us to focus on the teachings of Jesus and the Word of God. We can find our daily principles spelled out in the bible and maintain our focus on God. Spend some time reinforcing those principles and make time with God a strategic focus area.