Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. (1 Tim. 6:17-18)

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Wasting money on things that don't matter

Photo by Images_of_Money
"I'm not real frugal or thrifty, ... I just don't waste money on little things that don't matter, but spend on big things that do." - Brian O'Reilly

Flushing Money Down the Toilet

We've all done it. We've all spent money on little things that don't really matter. The $5 Starbuck's coffees, the fast-food work lunches, the expensive dinners, and junk toys for the kiddos. Everyday, we end up making small, incremental spending decisions which, at the time, don't necessarily break the bank. When you add this stuff up over time, though, these small purchases can add up to some big bucks! When you sit down and really think about it, it can almost seem like you're just flushing your hard-earned dollars down the toilet!

For example, if you went into the old S-bux for a $5 coffee every day, that's going to add up to $150 in a month! Or, let's say that you took your family out to a few decent restaurants, three times a week at $40-50 bucks a pop. Then, you will end up spending something like $480-600 a month. That's the equivalent of a car payment! Hope you like the food!

Have A Plan With Discipline

Instead of spending these smaller amounts of money on a regular basis that, at the end of the day, don't really matter, what if you took a different approach? Hey, I like me a S-bux coffee on occasion and even a nice dinner out from time-to-time, but spending those crazy amounts of money on stuff that won't last but a few hours in my stomach, doesn't make a whole lot of sense, does it? All of that money really is eventually going to be flushed down the toilet - literally!

What if you came up with a better plan that saved yourself money? In order to get your coffee or food fixes, you could start by planning them out as occasional purchases, combined with at home remedies. For example, you could buy a better grade of coffee for your coffee maker, get yourself a nice travel mug, and start taking your coffee with you to work. If you absolutely can't stay away from the whole barrista experience, then you could still go to an actual coffee shop, one or two times a week, and save yourself a whole lot of money over the long haul.

You need an overall spending plan, though. You need to sit down once a month and plan out how you are going to spend your money. Focus on the big stuff first, such as giving back to the Lord, saving some of your money, reoccurring bills, and paying down any debt. After you have the big stuff taken care of in your spending, then build in some "fun money" so that you can go out and get an occasional coffee or nice dinner.

Focus On The Stuff That Truly Matters

The key with having a spending plan is prioritizing the stuff that really matters to you and your family. Can you honestly say that the coffee's and the dinners out are a family priority? Sure, the time spent together doing these entertainment-type activities is a high priority, but you could be more creative in getting that family time without the financial expense. I think the spending of large amounts of money in this area is more of a lazy factor. It's easier for us, it's more convenient to just spend the extra cash to get whatever needs met. It takes a little more energy and advanced planning to get those needs met without spending a pile of money.

Don't focus on the time, energy, and creativity it will take to have a spending plan with money-saving alternatives. Focus on the end-goals. What are you truly desiring your plan to achieve? Do you need more money in the bank for your emergency fund, more money to throw at your debt snowball, or more money for your kid's college savings? Get your cash flow plan focused on these big areas, first, but still allow for some of these smaller expenses to happen as a part of your "blow money" or entertainment-type spending.

What are the financial "big things" that really matter in your life and the life of your family? Are you focused on these big things, or are you allowing your finances to be consumed by the little things that don't really matter? What do you and your family need to do refocus and re-prioritize on the most important things?

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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Worry About Your Own Path

Photo by msmail
Compare and Contrast

As human beings, I think it's easy for us to look over at someone else's life and compare ours to theirs. Christians, of course, are no different. In the age of the "prosperity gospel," it's easy for any of us to look over at the lives of our Christian friends and compare what we have to what they have or don't have. We may even start asking God questions such as, "Lord, why does 'Joe Blow' have such an easy life?" "Why have you blessed him with more money, a bigger house, a nicer SUV, and a hotter wife?" "Why doesn't he have similar problems and struggles like me?"

Believe it or not, even Jesus' own #1 apostle struggled with comparing his journey to that of another leading apostle. In John 21:20-23 we read about the Apostle Peter comparing his journey with the Apostle John:
Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”) When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?” Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” Because of this, the rumor spread among the believers that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?”
The reason Peter started asking the Lord these questions about John is due to the fact that Jesus clearly spelled out to Peter that he was going to have a difficult ending to his life's journey in the previous two verses:
Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!” (John 21:18-19).
Don't Worry About God's Will For Others

In the flesh, it's easy for all of us to compare our lives to others. I have a suspicion that's why God addressed this issue in the tenth commandment of the Ten Commandments:
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” (Exodus 20:17).
God had a specific plan that He called Peter to fulfill, and He had a specific, slightly different plan for John to complete. The same is true for you and for me. It's not our job to compare and complain to the Lord if we feel as though we have been dealt the "short straw" in life. Our concern should be fulfilling God's purposes for our own life and encouraging others as they fulfill their own unique life purpose.

Focus On God's Will For You

So, what has God called you to do in this earthly existence?

If God called you to be a truck driver, then be the best truck driver you can be for His honor and glory. If God called you to be a pastor, then shepherd God's people with a passionate heart. If God called you to be the CEO of a major corporation, then lead that organization with the integrity of Christ. And, if God called you to be a missionary in one of the most difficult places on the planet, then fulfill your calling and give Him praise for His considering you worthy for the task!

Don't fall into the trap of comparing and contrasting His plan for you with other believers. That's just going to lead to possible anxiety, resentment, and frustration. Instead, give Him praise and thanksgiving for the calling He has placed on you, and do your best to finish your race to the best of your ability!

Also, check out these related posts:

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Stinking It Up for Jesus

Photo by elycefeliz
Oh, That Sweet Aroma

Have you ever walked into a house and you could tell that the home owners had animals? There's that distinct odor of wet dog, or wood-shavings, or even a litter box.  There is a definite difference in smell between a home with pets and one without.

This not only happens with pet owners, but also different ethnic groups can have very distinct aromas to their homes. This is primarily due to the style of cooking and types of foods for these various groups. Indian, Chinese, Japanese, and others use very different aromatic spices and sauces, and you can definitely smell the difference when you walk into their homes.

Be a Stinky Christian

Have you ever consider that just like our pet owners or various ethnic groups give off their own unique olfactory scents, believers in Christ should do the same? In 2 Corinthians 2:14-16 we read,
But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task?
The interesting part of this passage is that according to the Apostle Paul, believers give off two very different, distinct odors to two different groups of people. First, to other fellow Christians, Christians themselves give off the odor of life. Have you ever walked into a neutral setting in the "world" and met people who you thought were Christians? There was just something about them; the way that they behaved, spoke, or the general "vibe" that they gave off. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, they were giving off that same "odor." They were the aroma of life to us as a fellow member of the family of God!

Second, to non-believers, Paul states that we give off the odor of death! Is there any wonder that the world hates Christians? If we as believers are living our daily lives in The Jesus Way,  then to most non-believers we are an unpleasant aroma. We are a constant reminder to those of the world that this life contains only two possible outcomes at the end of it - eternal life in heaven with the Lord or eternal death in hell with Satan and his demons.

How Stinky Are You?

So, believer, how stinky are you, really? Do those around you know that you are a believer? Do you live your life in such a way that non-believers and believers can smell the aroma of Christ as a result?

Fellow believers will be attracted to your aroma of life. You have the common bond of Christ through the Holy Spirit living inside every believer. And, even some non-believers may be attracted to Christ as a result.

Don't be surprised, though, when you attempt to spread the pleasing aroma of Christ wherever you go, the majority of the world is going to reject you! We are the aroma of death to the world, and they don't like us for that very reason. But that's OK. The Jesus Way is a definite choice between life and death. Get out there, today, and stink it up for the Lord!

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Thursday, August 18, 2011

Finish Your Race Well

Photo by The Happy Rower
Falling Down Near the Finish Line

I'm sure we've all seen it happen in a TV show, maybe in a movie, or perhaps even in real life. A dramatic foot race is being run, and then near the finish the line, the lead runner trips and falls down. For whatever reason, he or she can't complete their race. They have come up short, and it may have not even been their fault to begin with.

A couple of months ago, I learned that one of my mentors in the faith and ministry had a moral failure. He was so close to the finish life of his primary, earthly ministry, and for whatever reason, he threw in the towel. He seemingly gave up everything that he said he believed in, in order to pursue getting his needs met; at least that is the perception of what happened. I don't know all the nitty gritty details. All I know is that he got busted and had to resign his spiritual position in defeat. He fell down right before his finish line.

Do I judge my mentor? No, not necessarily. I understand that even after our new birth in Christ that we still struggle with our fleshly, sin nature. Even the greatest Christian of the Church Age, the Apostle Paul, wrote in Romans 7:14-24 that he struggled to avoid sin and always do the right thing:
We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?
Am I shocked, surprised, and disappointed that my mentor fell down near the finish line? Yes, of course I am. Assuming his upcoming retirement as a pastor of a large church, he could have probably had his pick of awesome post-retirement ministry opportunities that he wanted. I don't get it. At this point, all I can do is pray for him and his difficult situation. And, I can also assess, evaluate, and learn from his mistakes and the mistakes of others.

The Christian Life Is A Challenging Marathon

The Christian life is a difficult race. Even Jesus told the crowds that followed him around Galilee and Judea that the cost was extremely high to be a Christ follower:
Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’ “Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples (Luke 14:25-33).
The writer of the book of Hebrews likened the Christian life to a long-distance race that must be run and won:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart (Hebrews 12:1-3).
Being a follower of Jesus is not going to be all puppy dogs and rainbows. Sure, there are some pretty amazing mountaintop experiences that we can and will experience with the Lord. The majority of the race, though, is just going to be plain, hard work. It's going to not be very fun, but that's not what we signed up for in the first place.

The Race Sucks. Get Over It. Set Your Eyes On Jesus.

In the above passage from Hebrews, we see the prescription for a successful race - fixing our sights on Jesus at the finish line. When we take our eyes off of Him and place it on ourselves and our circumstances, that's when we always get into trouble. Kind of reminds me of being in elementary school when the teacher told us kids to keep our eyes facing forward to the front of the room. When we listen, obey, and keep our focused in the right place, we're going to end up a winner.

If I can, let me encourage you today, fellow race runner, to stay on the course with your eyes looking straight ahead at Jesus. You may feel like your race is really difficult right now, but don't lose hope. And, if you should happen to fall down along the way, please, don't throw in the towel and give up. Let's finish our race well, together!

Also, check out these related posts:

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

There Can Only Be One President, And One Vice President (Part 2)

Photo by cliff1066
One Leader To Lead Them

In my last post, There Can Only Be One President, And One Vice President (Part 1), we looked at the Biblical leadership of a home. According to God's Word as seen in Ephesians 5, Christ is the ultimate head of the home. In a perfect scenario, the husband should be in submission to Christ's leadership, and the wife should be in submission to her husband's leadership as he follows the Lord.

Our families get into trouble, though, when at any time this leadership hierarchy is altered. For example, if the husband attempts to lead his family in direct disobedience to the leadership of Jesus, then there are going to be problems. Or, even if the wife is following the leadership of Christ but moves ahead of her husband in the chain of command, there are going to be problems.

Mutual Submission, Love, and Respect

There are a couple of other marriage and family issues in this Ephesians 5 passage that I need to address. If we were to just talk about the submission of the husband to Christ and the wife to the husband, then we really are only addressing part of the problem. In this passage, the Apostle Paul also discusses the concepts of mutual submission, love, and respect.

First, let's look at mutual submission. In Ephesians 5:21 we read, Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Before Paul talks about the wife submitting to the husbands leadership, He mentions that there should be mutual submission. Hmmm, how in the world does that work? What would and should that look in a Christian home? My best guess and interpretation of that verse in the context of the entire chapter would be that husbands and wives listen to each other. They converse and do their very best to make decisions as a team, after all the two have become "one flesh" (Ephesians 5:31). If the husband and wife reach an impasse and can't move forward with a decision, then we see that we follow a "chain of command" where the wife submits to the husband as the husband is (hopefully) submitting himself to the Lord.

Second, the husband is called to love his wife. In the Middle Eastern world, the majority of women are treated horribly. This is putting it mildly. They are typically treated like property, with the husband ruling his home with an iron fist. This is not what God intended for the family unit. In Ephesians 5:25-33a we read,
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself…
Husbands should love their wives with the same self-sacrificing, agape love as Christ displayed when He hung on a cross and sacrificed everything for us. Husbands should place the needs of their wives over those of their own needs. The greatest need a wife has is to know that she is loved and cared for by her husband.

And third, the wife is called to respect her husband. After the command is given for husbands to love their wives, then the wives are called upon to respect their husbands. The greatest need a man has is to know that he is respected by those around him, whether it be his wife, children, boss, co-workers, and so on. When the wife respects her husband, then she is displaying an attitude of consideration and holding her husband in high regard. She honors him in the God-given role of leader in the home.

It Just Works

The marriage dynamic and the Christian home is a fluid, dynamic organism. There's never a simple "one and done" kind of approach to fixing problems. It's a lifetime process of doing all of the things from these last two posts. There's a learning curve. It takes years of learning and practice to figure out one another because men and women are so different in the first place. Unfortunately, though, a lot of husbands and wives (even in the Christian community) give up and throw in the towel because they fail to work through these issues of mutual submission, agape love, respect, and roles of Biblical leadership.

For those of you who are married and reading these posts on marriage, I would encourage you to hang in there. Work through your problems as husbands and wives. Submit to one another, and at the same time follow the leadership structure of first Christ, then husband, and then wife. God's way is the best way.

Also, check out these related posts:

Thursday, August 11, 2011

There Can Only Be One President, And One Vice President (Part 1)

Photo by DonkeyHotey
Competing Leadership

Have you ever been involved in an organization, business, church, or family that had more than one head leader? From my own personal experience, being in a situation like this is never fun. Major decisions can become delayed when there is disagreement between the two leaders. Or, resentment begins to build up when one leader caves in to the decision of the other leader. There is screaming, shouting, anger, and drama. I realize some people enjoy that, but not me!

Anyway, a good friend of mine and I had lunch together the other day and we were swapping marriage stories - mine, his, and other mutual friends of ours. My friend had an extremely brilliant insight to marriage problems that I had never even considered before. He said, "Larry, in a marriage there can only be one president and one vice-president."

Leadership In Marriage

I already know this right now. What I'm about to write in the remainder of this post is not going to be popular, especially with many women, wives, or ex-wives. But, I really don't give a rip, because I'm going to write truth based on God's Word. As Christians, we either accept His Word as truth or we don't. I do realize that there are a few instances in the Word in which we need to filter through Old Testament Law as well as the culture of the time that certain Scripture passages have been written.

I believe that God's Word teaches that the husband has been appointed the head of the marriage, under the direct leadership of Christ Himself. So, I guess if you really want to get technical about the whole issue, Christ could be considered the President, the husband the Vice-President, and then maybe the wife is the Speaker of the House or a Cabinet member if you chose to frame the leadership structure that way. Probably not the best analogy, but let's roll with it for now.

God calls husbands to lead their families under the leadership of Christ. As the husband follows Christ, he has been given the authority to lead his wife and children. In Ephesians 5:22-24 we read,
Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
So, the Apostle Paul compares the relationship of a husband and wife to that of Christ and His bride, the Church. Christ is the head of His Church. The church is supposed to submit the authority of Christ. In the same way, the wife is to submit to the authority of her husband.

Oh, Larry, You're Just So Old Fashioned

In today's world of women's liberation and rights, I know these are radical statements. Following the path of Jesus can lead to radical living, but in the words of Apple Computer, "It just plain works." When the husband has submitted his life to the Lord, then He is in the best possible position to lead his wife. The wife is then asked to submit to the authority of her husband.

Does this mean that the husband leads his wife with a heavy hand? Of course not, but in the words of President Harry S. Truman, "The buck stops here." God is holding the husband ultimately responsible for the decision making in the family. At the end of the day, somebody has to make the final call, and God gives that responsibility to the husband.

Let's revisit this topic in my next post.

Also, check out these related posts:

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Behaving Like a Child of God

Photo by mag3737
Adoption Into God's Family

At the point of your salvation, you were adopted into God's family. You moved from the category of pagan, unbeliever, sinner, child of Satan, or whatever you want to call your former existence, into God's family. In Ephesians 1:4-5 we read,
For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will...
The good news of this passage is that when you became a Christ follower, you moved from the old life to the new life. The goal for every believer should be striving to be more like Jesus each day. Will this consistently happen every day? Well, of course it won't, because we still have the sin nature inside us. Since your conversion, you now have the Holy Spirit locked into a battle with the flesh. This is great news, because if we simply die to self, and allow the Holy Spirit complete control, then He will win the battle for us! Romans 6:11-14 states,
In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.
Ask Yourself This Question

Asking yourself questions is a great way to move in a right direction, especially when you ask quality questions. A few days ago during a brief devotional time, I was asked to consider a quality question to ask myself each and every day. That question is:
Lord, today, am I behaving as your child?
Wow! What an amazing question that each one of us needs to ask ourselves. In the places I go, in the activities in which I choose to participate, in the words that come out of my mouth, and in the attitude I give off to those around me, am I really acting like a child of the King?

Works are important in the life of a believer. They do not save us, but they do point to the fact that a conversion of our heart and mind has taken place. Our behavior, our works after our conversion is evidence that God really has done and continues to do a great work in our lives. Consider the following verses from the Book of James, Chapter 2:
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? (James 2:14).
In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds (James 2:17-18).
As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead (James 2:26).
So, How's Your Behavior, Today?

Many in protestant circles are scared to acknowledge that our good works after our conversion are an important part of our faith in Christ. They are the proof that God has done and continues to do an amazing work in our lives. Our good works post-conversion demonstrate to a lost and dying world that we truly are children of the King.

So, if you were to examine my life today, would you find enough evidence to convict me of being a child of God? I have to constantly ask myself this question and evaluate to see if the works in my life demonstrate the life-changing power of Christ. I would ask you to do the same today and every day. If we were to examine your life right now, do the "works" in your life line up with who you say that you are?

Let us all live our lives in such a way that people see God in us. Let's behave like children of God.

Also, check out these related posts:

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Lead From the Front

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
Inspirational Leadership

I was recently flipping around the cable TV channels the other day and ran across the movie Glory. If you're not familiar with the movie, you can click on the link and read a more thorough synopsis. Here's a thumbnail sketch about the movie:
The premise of Glory is loosely based on the true story of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry led by Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, the bold military leader of the U.S. Army's first African American soldier regiment. The inspiration for the film came from screenwriter Kevin Jarre; after him viewing a war monument depicting a memorial to Shaw and the 54th regiment consisting of Black soldiers. Jarre's screenplay was based on Colonel Shaw's letters and on two books, Lincoln Kirstein's Lay This Laurel and Peter Burchard's One Gallant Rush.
Colonel Shaw came from a wealthy and socially prominent Boston abolitionist family. Earlier before the wartime events, his parents had even joined an American Anti-Slavery Society. As depicted in the film, the men of the 54th infantry trained near Boston, under the constant scrutiny of white soldiers, many of whom believed black soldiers lacked the stomach for combat. Yet the negative perceptions seemed only to inspire a sense of unity and pride within the regiment. The assault on Fort Wagner proved to be a turning point for black soldiers, serving to dismiss any lingering skepticism among whites about the combat readiness of African Americans, opening a new chapter in racial equality [courtesy of Wikipedia].
Near the end of the movie, when this black regiment of soldiers is preparing to attack Fort Wagner, we see Colonel Shaw give a rousing, inspiring speech to his men. Then, he dismounts his horse, gets in front of his men, raises his bayonet, and leads the charge against the fort. Surely, Shaw knew the attack on the fort was a suicide mission and that he and most of his men would die.

Shaw's actions were not typical battlefield leadership. The modus operandi was for the commanding officers to lead from the back lines, directing their soldiers were to go and what to do. Shaw knew that he needed to do something radical, something different. He did this not only to earn the respect of the men that he led, but also to change the opinion of the white soldiers who did not respect their fellow black soldiers in the Union Army. Shaw's leadership from the front worked exactly as he had hoped and planned.

The Type of Leaders People Need

This movie was a wonderful reminder for me of the importance of strong leadership, especially leaders who lead from the front. People need leaders who lead by example. Let me give you a personal example of what I'm talking about.

When I'm not leading stewardship development issues at my church, my primary role is the orchestra director in our worship ministry. I have the awesome privilege of leading about 35 members of the most dedicated, consistent people I have ever known. Were they that dedicated when I first came on staff at my church over 12 years ago? Probably not, but through a process of asking for their dedication and faithfulness, combined with a model of dedication and faithfulness from me, they have followed my leadership from the front lines.

I learned a long time ago that if I want to get certain results from those that I lead, then I have to model my desire to my followers. So, continuing to use my orchestra as an example, I model dedication and faithfulness in many ways. Here are a couple of examples:

One, I always come prepared to lead them in rehearsals in worship services. If I'm asking them to practice their music outside of rehearsals and to come prepared to play their very best, then I have to do what I'm asking them to do. I have to lead from the front. If I came into rehearsals or services missing cues and fumbling around trying to figure out what was going on, do you think they would be inspired to practice their instruments and music at home? I doubt it very seriously.

Two, I make it a point to miss as few Wednesday night rehearsals and Sunday morning services as possible. At the very most, I miss 4-5 max, and my average is more like 3 per year. If I missed more than this, and I was constantly running in and out of town, do you think they would be inspired to be faithful in their rehearsal and worship service attendance? Again, I doubt it very seriously.

Leaders get into trouble when they ask their followers to do things they aren't willing to do themselves. Their followers get annoyed, frustrated, and resentful. Eventually, they will probably stop following that kind of leader altogether. You must lead from the front.

What Kind of Leader Are You?

All of us are leaders of something. We lead in our families. We may be a leader in the workplace, or a small group at church. All of us would probably be very surprised to know who is watching us for leadership cues. So, what kind of leader are you? Are you the type that that is hiding out at the back of the battle, trying to lead from the rear? Or, are you more like Colonel Shaw, who jumped off of his horse and led his men from the front?

The best, most respected leaders always lead from the front lines. Leadership guru John Maxwell puts it this way: "A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way."

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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Radical Life Changes Challenge Us To Make Changes

Photo by xcode
Is It Just Me Or What?

Ever since I walked through my time of difficulty beginning almost two and a half years ago, I have been amazed to witness, encounter, and uncover that a lot of people are going through some heavy stuff. I don't know if this is partially the result of people unloading on me because of my own personally experience; or maybe this is due to what life phase I'm going through right now (mid-life); or perhaps this is another symptom of bad economic times. When the economy goes in the tank, a lot of other bad things happen as a direct or indirect result. It's kind of like when you have bad news in one area of your life, it has the tendency to affect all the other parts of your life.

There may be multiple reasons for the hurt and trials people are going through, but all I know is that the pain and the problems are very real for a lot of people right now. Just in my little circle of friends and sphere of influence, I know a family that is facing challenging health issues with two of its members. Several couples I know are having marital problems. Another family has a spouse going through a mental breakdown. Another couple I know is having fertility problems. And, others are struggling with their financial situation.

Embrace Your Situation

I don't know if you are going through a challenging time in your life during these difficult days. Perhaps, God has spared you and your family at this time. But maybe, just maybe you are really struggling right now. You are going through the valley.

I know where you're at, today. I've been there and got the t-shirt, and it's not a fun place to be. What I've learned through the trials and tribulations, though, is not to fight it. We can all wail, moan, kick, and scream about our own personal situation, but at the end of the day, what have we really accomplished? Nothing!

Using previous experience as my own teacher, my recommendation is simply embrace the struggle, whatever it may be. Pray about your problem. Ask the Lord if He is trying to teach you something through your circumstances. Perhaps, He is trying to purge you of some bad habits from your life. Or, He just needs you to experience a deeper spiritual growth, a deeper spiritual relationship with God that only comes through pain.
The breaking of the alabaster box and the anointing of the Lord filled the house with the odor, with the sweetest odor. Everyone could smell it. Whenever you meet someone who has really suffered; been limited, gone through things for the Lord, willing to be imprisoned by the Lord, just being satisfied with Him and nothing else, immediately you scent the fragrance. There is a savor of the Lord. Something has been crushed, something has been broken, and there is a resulting odor of sweetness. - Watchman Nee
Relax, Change Takes Time

So, once you have embraced your situation, it's time to just settle in and relax (I know, easier said than done!). Change often just plain takes a lot of time to happen. So often in our lives, there are many deep, ingrained patterns, that it's just going to be a lengthy process to change the direction of those patterns. Ask the Lord to reveal to you what He wants to change, and then allow Him to do the work only He can do. Become clay in the potter's hands, and allow Him to shape you into the man or woman that He desires to use for His Kingdom purposes.
The will of God is never exactly what you expect it to be. It may seem to be much worse, but in the end it's going to be a lot better and a lot bigger. - Elisabeth Elliot
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