Week nine (smorgasbord)

Americans make a host of choices every day. Our lives are a smorgasbord. When its time to re-stock the pantry, we can shop at any of a dozen grocery stores. Once the grocer is selected we have hundreds of items and brands from which to choose. Not many Americans like the thought of having only one choice. If one brand doesn’t meet our expectations we simply move on to the next. It’s the American way. From gasoline to cell phones, we demand the right to choose.

There is at least one time in America when having choices cause anxiety. For a Christian, being in the center of God’s will is the ultimate goal. One of the most asked questions I experience as a pastor is, “How do I know what God’s will is?” When faced with more than one path, the Christian gets anxious. Two or three job offers often sends the Christian into a tail spin. After discussing all the options and talking over the details, more often than not I will hear, “I just wish God would tell me what to do. He could just write the answer on my bathroom mirror. Why doesn’t he?”

First, I don’t know any theological reason why God would write on anyone’s mirror. Second, think about how lazy that statement sounds. What a Christian is really saying when demanding God give a quick, easy to follow answer by writing it on their bathroom mirror is this… “God I don’t have time to dig deep into your Word. I don’t have the strength to cry out and wait. I AM HOPELESSLY OUT OF SHAPE SPIRITUALLY. I’m not like the psalmist who loves to meditate on the things of You day and night. I am a lazy American Christian…I want what I want…now please!”

Week nine has presented a host of options to pray through and consider. How will I know the Lord’s will? Prayer and the Word…fasting…spiritual disciplines…and, like the psalmist, crying out to a holy and just God. It’s hard work. But it’s a labor of love.

By the way, did I mention trust? Listen to this story that tells of a time in Abraham’s life when he had to make a choice and did so knowing God’s word and resting in the fact that he could trust God….

Now Abraham was old, well advanced in years. And the Lord had blessed Abraham in all things. And Abraham said to his servant, the oldest of his household, who had charge of all that he had, “Put your hand under my thigh, that I may make you swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and God of the earth, that you will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell, but will go to my country and to my kindred, and take a wife for my son Isaac.” The servant said to him, “Perhaps the woman may not be willing to follow me to this land. Must I then take your son back to the land from which you came?” Abraham said to him, “See to it that you do not take my son back there. The Lord, the God of heaven, who took me from my father’s house and from the land of my kindred, and who spoke to me and swore to me, ‘To your offspring I will give this land,’ he will send his angel before you, and you shall take a wife for my son from there. But if the woman is not willing to follow you, then you will be free from this oath of mine; only you must not take my son back there.” So the servant put his hand under the thigh of Abraham his master and swore to him concerning this matter.

(Genesis 24:1-9, ESV)

Here are some facts regarding this passage… Based on Abraham’s knowledge of God’s Word, he knew Isaac needed a wife; she couldn’t be a Canaanite; Isaac couldn’t leave the promised land; his wife would come from Abraham’s family in Macedonia. (All of this knowledge came from Abraham loving to talk with God…my point, if you don’t love to talk to God day by day, you won’t be ready to make a choice tomorrow.)

Now Abraham takes this knowledge and makes a decision. “I’ll send my servant.” (vs 4) The servant agrees to go but asks, “But what if she won’t come?” (vs 5) Abraham says, “Don’t worry, the Lord will send His angel before you! But, if I’m wrong you are no longer obligated.” (vs 8-9)

Abraham was not absolutely certain of his decision; but, based on his history with God and the knowledge of His Word, he was very, very confident. So he said to his servant, “listen, my dear servant, I am as confident about this decision as anything I have ever done. So you go. And take heart: the Lord will send his angel before you.”

This is a beautiful pattern for us to follow…

  1. Know God so well that you can understand the facts of life as God sees them.
  2. Align your plans with those facts.
  3. Take bold steps knowing God is with you!

Created in the image of God

Most of the time when we hear a teaching on Genesis chapter one, specifically verse 27; “So God created man is his own image”, facts regarding the image bearers are presented. These facts include mankind, both Adam and Eve, are the crown of creation. Human life alone is created in the “image” of God and has the special assignment to rule over the created order. It is implied that Adam and Eve and their descendants will have a relationship with God that is different than all other creatures. Humans alone will reflect the glory of God in creation more specifically than any other creature.

As true and helpful as these facts are in understanding our relationship to God, if accepted as “that’s the whole story”, as leaders and husbands and fathers we will find ourselves in trouble. The whole story unfolds as we read the rest of the Bible. Adam and Eve rebelled and the glory of God faded in these image bearers. Jesus shed His blood on the cross to restore the image bearers. If you have received the salvation of Christ, image bearing takes on a whole new meaning.

Listen to what Paul states as a fact regarding the redeemed image bearers:

“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”

(Romans 8:29, ESV)

What is predestined is that we become like Christ (cf. 2 Cor 3:18). The purpose is that Christ might be the “eldest in a vast family of brothers”. If we were to bear no family resemblance to him, the intention of the Father would never be realized.

Listen to Paul once again as he prays for us to conform to the One whose image we bear:

“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

(Philippians 4:7-8, ESV)

Paul desires here that we be conformed to the image of Christ. Our goal is stated clearly; love what God loves and hate what God hates. Act and react as Jesus would. In other words, after reading the story of the prodigal son in Luke chapter 15, we would lean back and say, “yep, I’d handle that situation the same way”.

God is both strict when it comes to sin, and merciful when it comes to need. But it is not good enough to simply have a code of strictness and mercy toward our family. The strictness and mercy must conform to God’s standards. Listen to how Doug Wilson, Pastor/Author of the book Father Hunger , states it:

This is why fathers need to learn how to be strict in the same way that God the Father is strict, and to be merciful in the same way that He is merciful. If we are strict only, we crush the spirit of our children, or we provoke rebellion. If we are merciful only, we create a culture of entitlement and self-indulgence in the home. And, in the worst possible combination, if we are strict where God is merciful and merciful where God is strict, then we are busy supplying the strip clubs of the future with all their pole dancers and customers.

We cannot wink at sin and withhold blessing. As leaders, we must work hard everyday at being the servant-leaders blueprinted in the Word of God. A wise leader studies the blueprint. Biblical authority flows only to those who are willing to accept this responsibility. Biblical authority knows how to bleed for others.




Week eight (the weakest link)

Even a company that can be described as a “well oiled machine” isn’t perfect. Every chain when stressed past its limit will break. However, only one link breaks; the weakest one. One of the functions of any good leader is to continually identify weak links in the organization and strengthen them. The phenomena of strengthening the weak link is creating a new weak link. By definition, a leader’s work is never done.

After two months, this was a week of reflection and assessment. We have been hard at work strengthening weak links and it’s beginning to reflect improvement. When head down in the daily routine you can’t see the forest for the trees. It’s always a good idea to take a short break from the daily routine and look for results. The daily routine has a tendency to demoralize a leader. Stepping out of the routine has a tendency of encouraging a leader as you see the results of your labor. The system is beginning to take shape! The goal is to manage the system not the individual employees in the system.

I am working very closely with my brother who is the owner of the company. We are polar opposites. We don’t have the same business philosophy or always agree on how to achieve goals. We often find ourselves at odds. However, at the end of the day, we place those differences aside and we are just brothers sharing a meal or just talking about stuff. That’s also very encouraging. People who operate at the highest level go head to head from 8 to 5 and without walls or animosity enjoy the pleasure of each others company at the end of the day. It is one of life’s deepest tragedies when individuals who have a lifetime of experiences together allow simple disagreements to ruin such a valuable gift.

Still missing my family like crazy. Can’t wait to see them at months end!