Friday, January 30, 2009

Powerful Statement

I read this during my devotional time this morning. Do you agree?

"The leader (person) who does not seek the Kingdom of God first often does not seek it at all." -Lead Like Jesus

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Sad, But There Is Hope

This story By Associated Press Writer David Eggert, really got to me this morning.

BAY CITY, Mich. – When neighbors went inside Marvin Schur's house, the windows were frosted over, icicles hung from a faucet, and the 93-year-old World War II veteran lay dead on the bedroom floor in a winter jacket over four layers of clothing.

He froze to death — slowly and painfully, authorities say — days after the electric company installed a power-limiting device because of more than $1,000 in unpaid bills.

The old man's sad end two weeks ago has led to outrage, soul-searching and a resolve never to let something like this happen again.

"There's got to be a way in today's computer age they can find out if someone's over a certain age," said Chad Sepos, 37, a copy machine installer who lives a block away in this Lake Huron city of 34,000 people, about 90 miles from Detroit. "It's just sad."

One of the saddest things of all was that Schur appeared to have plenty of money, and, in fact, one of the neighbors who entered the home reported seeing cash clipped to a pile of bills on the kitchen table. Schur's nephew suggested the old man's mind may have been slipping.

I was so sad to hear this and frustrated with how this could happen. And then I heard about a family here in our city that had been without electricity for the past two days. There was a man in a wheelchair with his wife and niece in the house. They had no heat and it was freezing in their house.

A man in our church had a kerosene heater he wasn't using so he got another man from church and off they went. They got it to them with extra kerosene. It is 23 degrees right now and that family is warm.

One man may have died, but because the love commanded by Jesus in Matthew 22:39-40 is being lived out there are probably thousands that are alive and warm tonight. The world is filled with a lot of pain and evil. But it could be worse. There is also a lot of compassion and love out there. Let's make it more compassionate and loving today. Let's look out for each other and be willing to share love in whatever form it is needed today. It may require a heater. It may require a hug. It may require keeping your mouth shut. It may require opening it and saying something like, "I love you."

Friday, January 23, 2009

Being Loving Vs. Doing Loving Things

I read Matthew 23 during my devotion time this morning and it was quite disturbing. Jesus brought down the hammer on the religious leaders of his day. As a religious leader, it leaves me quivering. I am not always as faithful and focused as God has called me to be. I can easily fall into the rut of mechanical religion. I am in the Scriptures and in prayer every day, but those Scriptures and prayers don't always get into me. It is evident that Jesus despises the appearance of faith and love. He wants the real thing. The artificial stuff makes Him sick.

Jesus told the Church of Laodicea "So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth" (Revelation 3:16). Colossae was near Laodicea and it had fresh spring water. Hierapolis was also nearby and it had hot springs, which were used for medicinal purposes. Laodicea had to bring in its water through stone pipes from miles away. It left thick calcium carbonate deposits in the pipes and made the water disgusting to the taste. Jesus is saying that the Laodiceans are like their water. They are not cold and refreshing like the water at Colossae. And they are not hot and medicinal like the water at Hierapolis. They are sickening. They are not cool and satisfying and they are not hot and useful. Their religious activity without love was making Jesus sick.

It is vital that we do what we do in response to God with love.

On Sunday I made this statement and I believe it. YOU CAN DO LOVING THINGS WITHOUT BEING IN LOVE, BUT YOU CAN NEVER BE IN LOVE WITHOUT DOING LOVING THINGS. Any of us can do loving things toward God that show an outward expression that makes us look spiritual, holy and wise. That's what the Pharisees did and it angered Jesus.

When we do loving things toward God without truly loving Him, it dishonors Him and it hurts us.

When you do loving things without truly loving God:
1. You become proud. You become very pleased with what you are doing. You begin keeping your score and start thinking how great your deeds are.

2. You become self-focused. You like the feeling of superiority. You like it so much you begin to focus on getting and keeping that feeling. So you remain focused on what you are doing and feeling and make it your priority.

3. You become judgmental of those that don’t do as well as you. You not only keep your score, but you start keeping other people's score to make sure in your calculations you are doing as well or better than them. Those that do as well or better than you become your "friends." They are actually "works" associates, but you call them friends because they look to you as good as you look to you.

4. All of this leads you to being like Satan. You come to want to be praised and in control of your life and the lives of others.

This is what Jesus might have seen in the religious leaders of His day - His ancient enemy Satan. This may have created these powerful condemnations.

My goal is to keep it simple. Love Jesus. Love His Church. Love the lost people He loves.

I, along with all believers must remember, "If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing" (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).

We must love God with the love He has given to us. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away."

When we are in love with Jesus, we will do loving things. By being loving we bring honor to Jesus and health to our souls.

You can learn how to do that more effectively at

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Why The World Is In The Condition It Is

Why is the world in such turmoil right now? Why is there so much hate, fear, and unnecessary suffering? We have this huge planet with plenty of resources for everyone to live off of and yet we aren't. We are fighting amongst ourselves as a human race because we refuse to forgive each other and live in peace. The world is in the condition it is in because people refuse to be reconciled.

Imagine how many resources could have been focused in the last 20 years to provide for people in need if they had not been required to go toward physical war, economic war and border wars. This is what is causing human suffering - an unwillingness to forgive and be reconciled.

We don't need bigger government. We don't need socialism. We don't need bailouts. We don't need to have it all. WE NEED GRACE TO BE GIVEN AND RECEIVED.

Blackaby hit the nail on the head with today with the January 17th devotion. Click here to go to Blackaby's daily devotion.

"Leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift." (Matthew 5:24)

It is useless to give offerings to God while you are at enmity with your brother. Jesus said that His followers should be reconciled with anyone who has_something against them. The world seeks reconciliation on limited terms. Christians are to be reconciled, whatever_it takes.

You say, “But you don’t know how deeply he hurt me! It’s unreasonable to ask me to restore our relationship.” Or, “I tried but she would not be appeased.” Jesus did not include an exception clause for our reconciliation. If the person is an enemy, Jesus said to love him (Matt. 5:44). If he persecutes you, you are to pray for him (v. 44). If she publicly humiliates you, you are not to retaliate (v. 39). If someone takes advantage of you, you are to give even more than he asks (v. 41). The world preaches “Assert yourself.” Jesus taught, “Deny yourself.” The world warns that you will be constantly exploited. Jesus’ concern was not that His disciples be treated fairly but that they show unconditional love to others regardless of how they were treated. Men spat upon Jesus and nailed Him to a cross. His response was our model: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34).

If there were ever a command that is constantly disobeyed, it is this mandate to be reconciled. We comfort ourselves with the thought, “God knows that I tried to make things right, but my enemy refused.” God’s word does not say “Try to be reconciled,” but “Be reconciled.” Is there someone with whom you need to make peace? Then do what God tells you to do.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Talk I Gave on Leadership Today

It was my honor and jot to get to speak at the Bowling Green Rotary Club. Some of their members were not there and their leadership asked if I would post the talk I gave on my blog so they could send them to this site to read it. So here it is. It's pretty long.

I am as excited about this year as I have even been about any year in my life. I do not know that I have actually ever entered into a new year with more hope and high expectations. It may be because 2008 was such a hard year for me personally that I know things can only get better, but I genuinely believe I, my family, and the church I serve are going to experience the goodness and the greatness of God in ways we’ve only heard of and imagined.

I know for many New Year’s Day is just another date on the calendar. And if I am honest, most of the time that’s what it is for me – just another day. Usually the only things I get excited about are the football bowl games that will be played on January 1st and that first week of the year. And this year for the first time in 53 years my team, the Vanderbilt Commodores were able to finally make it to a bowl and win.

So this New Year has brought to me a lot of hope and excitement. The good thing about the New Year is that it provides an opportunity for something else to end and something else to begin. There is something hopeful and uplifting about getting a fresh start and having finality to something else. At the New Year you can look back and consider what you’ve done and make changes based on what you want to do. Of course you can do that anytime, but the New Year provides a good enough reason to actually do it.

Last year, when Chris Graham contacted me and honored me with the invitation to come and speak with you today, I had just read an article on President George W. Bush and his desire to define his legacy. ABC News Correspondent Jennifer Parker reported that, “In a personal and wide-ranging interview conducted by his sister about his legacy, his faith and the influence of his father, President George W. Bush said he hopes to be remembered as a liberator of the Iraqi people.”

No matter what your political views may be, as a leader you can appreciate what the President is trying to do. He wants his legacy to be something positive. He wants history to look back on his contribution and smile. He wants somehow to have those who follow him to appreciate his efforts.

We all want that. Every one of you in this room is a leader. And as a leader, you want to make a difference in the world. And you want that difference to be something this is good and that matters. As we enter into this New Year, I want to encourage you to consider the Leadership Legacy you want to leave on this year and with the entirety of your life.

Unfortunately, most of us are so busy that we do not have time or maybe just don’t take the time to consider our leadership legacy. Most of us assume it’ll be fine and think right now it really doesn’t matter as long as we are happy with ourselves. That would be great if that were true, but I have researched and talked with too many leaders in my life to know that simply being happy with ourselves is not all that matters. In the end all we have is what we’ve done with the influence we have been given. In the end we will all have to look back at our lives and make a simple determination. Did my influence in people’s lives honor my maker and make other people’s lives better? We will want to know that our leadership made a difference in the world.

In the end each of us will have to answer to ourselves and to God for how we influenced our children, our spouse, our friends, the people we worked with, and the city we lived in.

Every one of us is building our leadership legacy. The only real question is, what is it? What kind of leadership legacy are you building for yourself? No matter what it may be now, the good news is that right now you can choose to make it better.

Each Christmas season I like to stay up one night by myself and watch “A Christmas Carol.” I like the movie because it gives me hope. It reminds me that all people can change. A person that almost everyone would consider hopeless can actually choose to redefine what their life is about and choose to make a positive change in their life and in the lives of those in their world.

Each one of us as leaders can choose to live lives that will make our lives and the lives of those we influence meaningful. The meaning or lack of meaning we bring to ourselves and others will ultimately be the leadership legacy we leave.

The question I would like you to consider with me today is what is it that you do that defines you and will ultimately define your leadership legacy?
Let me tell you about Four Things that I know will help in defining your leadership legacies:
1. Your Words
2. Your Actions
3. Your Attitude
4. Your Purpose

As a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, it should not surprise you that I believe that the greatest leader that ever lived was Jesus of Nazareth. Whether you are a follower of Jesus Christ or not, you have to admit that there is no one that has had the influence that Jesus has had on our world. We all date ourselves by Him. Billions of dollars are spent purchasing the book about Him that He wrote through the power of His Spirit. Billions of people follow His teachings and millions have given their lives in devotion to Him.

Jesus Christ has the ultimate leadership legacy. Even those who do not submit to the truth claims about Him respect Him. The reason why Jesus has the ultimate Leadership Legacy and the respect of all who know of Him is because Jesus was a master of His Words, His Actions, His Attitude, and His Purpose. I have learned a great deal from Him in these areas and I want to give you some thoughts on these things based on what I have learned.

1. Our Words
We’ve all heard it said that “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” The person who coined that phrase must have never been ridiculed by a person of influence and authority in their life. As someone who has taken a few verbal beatings in his life and regularly receives criticism, I can tell you that words do matter. The words do not even have to be harsh to have a dramatic negative impact.

I’ve learned that, as a leader, every interaction you have with another person results in either a deposit or withdrawal in their emotional bank account. Every interaction you have will do that. Please understand that you will never interact with a person as a leader and not make an impact on them. Because you are a leader and have influence, every time you talk it matters. The question is what kind of impact will your words have?

There are two simple things you can give to people that will provide a deposit in their emotional bank account: Encouragement and Optimism about their future. Encouragement and Optimism about their future will inspire and make a positive emotional deposit in their bank account.

You can Encourage People in a Number of Ways:
1. Celebrating their success
2. Telling their story to others in front of them
3. Compensating their achievement: time / money / significant gift
You can Provide Optimism in a Number of Ways:
1. Tell them the strengths you see in them.
2. Let them know why their job matters to what y’all are trying to accomplish as an organization.
3. Tell them about people you admire that they are like.

Please understand you are one of two kinds of leaders. You are either a leader people like to see coming their way or you are a leader that people dread seeing come their way. Because you are either depositing something in their emotional bank account or you are making a withdrawal by either being negative or by providing nothing, which is a waste of their time. When you provide only criticism without encouragement or optimism or provide basically nothing, which is a waste of their time, you make a withdrawal from people’s emotional bank account and they just do not want to see you coming. But because you are the leader they must deal with you.

I’ve served under three leaders that each did one of these:
1. Jeff Fritz – best ministry supervisor I’ve ever had. He always provided clarification with encouragement and/or with optimism.
2. A boss and a coach that only provided clarification with criticism and negative comments.
3. A boss that wasted his and my time. Talked about everything and nothing.

Let me speak to one more thing about words. The kinds of words you use are important. The kinds of words you use communicate the quality of your character. If you have a trashy mouth, you are telling those you lead that your character is lacking. Some think this is not a big deal. It is a big deal! The kinds of words you use will determine how a person thinks about you and what you are communicating. The type of words you use provide the perspective.
When you curse, you are showing a lack of respect for yourself, for other people, and for your maker. Jesus said in Mark 7:20 “What comes out of a man is what makes him ‘unclean.’

Words are like tools. When you use dirty tools, it has a negative impact on other people. The fact of the matter is it says a lot about you that you would use something foul to provide the most vital resource a leader has – information.

Let me encourage you to recognize cursing for what it is. It is a celebration of the dirtiest, saddest and foulest things that humans produce. The words we have defined in our culture as curse words describe the nastiest things humans produce. It is wrong to use these words and each of you as leaders are all better than that and above that and need not use them or allow them to be used by those you lead.

2. Our Actions
What you do in every aspect of your life matters to those you lead. Your actions are extremely influential especially to those that are younger than you.

All young people are looking for a path to follow. Your actions define a path. If that path is not a good one and they follow it, you will have influenced them in the wrong direction and it will define your leadership legacy in their life.
-illustration- last minute Larry. Procrastinated, but gifted. Had a young guy not as talented that procrastinated like him. Cost him his job.

The way you treat your spouse, your loved ones, and your friends communicates the kind of person you are and determines what people think of you and whether or not they will choose to trust and follow you.

3. Our Attitude
Our attitude communicates one of 3 things:
1. I don’t care about you. I only care about me.
2. I don’t care about you or me.
3. I care about you and me.
When people know you care, they care about your leadership and will seek it and submit to it gladly.

4. Our purpose
What we value and are pursuing is always clear to those we influence whether we know what our purpose is or whether we have shared it with them or not.

If your purpose in life does not include helping other people, they will know it and that fact about you will define your legacy to them.

Before I became a believer, I didn’t understand what the big deal about Jesus was. I wondered, "Why do people love Jesus?" Then I went to church to get a date and while I was there discovered His purpose and it changed by life. Jesus shared his purpose in Luke 19:10 when He said, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”

Once I realized that about Him, Jesus changed my life. I was able to honestly and openly admit that I was lost. I was able to believe in His sacrifice for me on the cross. I was then able to confess Him as savior and Lord of my life. By the way that is what a Christian is. It is someone who can admit sin, believe in Christ’s payment of it, and confess Him as savior and Lord. That has made all the difference in my life.

When it comes to your purpose it needs to be bigger than you and beneficial to those you influence in order for it to provide you with a great leadership legacy.

-illustration- I had basketball coach that almost killed me. I did everything he said because I knew his purpose was for us to win and for me to be as good as I could be.

Those you influence will love you and give you everything they’ve got, if they know your purpose is to help them win and be the best.

Before I close today allow me to encourage you with one more thing. Please understand that it is not enough to simply do the right things. You must be the right kind of person in order to build a great leadership legacy. Who you are; who you are at your being, matters as much and maybe even more than what you do because who you are in your being will determine your actions over the long haul of your life.

The way to build a great leadership legacy is to be a Servant Leader. The first time I heard the term Servant Leader I immediately thought it meant to be passive person and to allow the inmates to run the asylum. I have come to understand that it is the ultimate leadership model. It is the one Jesus Christ used. It is a leadership model that provides the key components of leadership the right way.

Leadership: influencing people with a vision and a plan that creates the reality the vision describes.
Servant: the person that executes the plan and equips, enables, and inspires others to be able to do their part to make the vision a reality.

A great leader is someone who has the vision, the plan, and can execute the plan to make the vision a reality.

Define the vision and develop a plan for your life that will make the vision a reality and then execute the plan.

Define the vision and develop a plan for the organization / the department / the practice / the office / the family you lead and then execute the plan by equipping, enabling, and inspiring others to do their part to make the vision a reality.

The best hours you will ever invest in yourself will be the hours you use to sit down and write on paper your vision and plan. When you do, it will inspire you to serve the vision and execute it.