Hey, what’s this cost?

Have you ever made fun of Jesus’ disciples? Have you ever found yourself studying the Gospel passages, or worse, teaching the same, and declare in your thoughts… “Will you look at these guys, they are nearly clueless; what knuckle-heads.”

If you, like me, have found yourself dwelling with the Pharisees in “self-righteous town” ponder this…

…and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.  –Matthew 4:22

Now face a second question, “have you ever done that? Left everything you’ve spent most of your adult life building; wife, kids, home, career …”

The best part of life is time spent in the center of God’s will. I can attest to the joy experienced when the call is heard and obeyed. However, I can’t think of a single time of following the call that didn’t take me out of my comfort zone.

In a very small way, I taste what it’s like to leave the ones you love behind each time I head to the airport. There is a profound sense of loss each time I watch the Phoenix valley grow small looking out the airplane window.

I have a cell phone and an iPad. I visit with my wife and family often while away from home. Although it’s nothing like being there, electronic gatherings numb the pain of separation. The disciples didn’t have this luxury.

I can’t think of a group of men who experienced a greater sense of joy as they sat at the feet of Jesus and later built the church and lived the Gospel life. And I can’t think of a group of men who experienced a greater sense of loss as they left everything to do so.

They lived life on this swinging pendulum. It must have been exhausting. No wonder they couldn’t stay awake in Gethsemane.

I now look at the disciples with a profound sense of awe, not in the disciples, but in a Savior that could sustain a group of men like them, like me.

 

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.

 

 

 

Be strong and courageous

You are a leader. I may be writing primarily to CEO’s and Entrepreneurs, but that statement is true for all Christians. You are a leader. The statement made previously, “we have been awarded responsibility [by God]” (see Life without walls (part three)), stirs our hearts to understand the gift. The Lord, by His choosing, has awarded us the gift of authority.

Due to corrupt understanding in the early church, Paul teaches the Body of Christ regarding gifts from the Lord, better known as spiritual gifts. Let’s take a look at Scripture:

Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed. You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led. Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

(1 Corinthians 12:1-7 ESV)

One could write an entire book centering on these seven verses. For now, let’s focus on verse seven. The point of verse seven is straight forward. You have a gift, and that gift is for the “common good”. In other words, authority is a gift for others, not for you.

As a leader (patriarch), this gift of authority is not designed to build self-confidence, but God-confidence. Your actions should point your family and your employees to the only source of confidence; God. (verse 6)

The most important work that a leader can do for the sake of those around him is to be converted; placing faith in Christ alone. The most important strategy for guiding those around him is to become a new man in Christ—whose hope and happiness and confidence are in God and not in himself.

Leaders, what you ARE in relation to God is far more important than any particular management/parenting technique you try to employ. Will your people hope in God if you hope in money? Will your people be happy in God if they see that anything in your life is a happier experience for you than worship? Will your people be confident in God if your whole demeanor communicates the desire to be seen as self-confident?

There is a peculiar role that the Scripture gives to leaders, husbands and fathers. Fathers bear a special responsibility for the moral life of the family. Leaders bear the same for their employees. So I urge you to take that responsibility, leaders, and that you be the kind of man who gives hope and happiness and confidence to those around you because you yourself have found your hope and your happiness and your confidence in God.

Life without walls (part four)

The Servant-Leader

When I say “industry leader” who comes to mind? Quick tell me! Some shout Donald Trump, some Lee Iacocca. These two men, and many others like them, are somewhat famous in our culture. After all, they get a lot of press. Household names come to mind first. While I acknowledge the charisma, savvy, and success that these men exude, if industry leadership is measured by market performance they don’t hold a candlestick to men like Darwin Smith and George Cain.

Darwin…George, who? That’s right, you’ve never heard of them unless you study industry at the micro level. Darwin Smith was CEO of Kimberly-Clark and George Cain CEO of Abbott Laboratories.

Smith and Cain outperformed Trump and Iacocca in nearly every category, especially the ones that really count. Smith and Cain outperformed the market nearly 15:1 and built companies that are still known as legacies. Trump and Iacocca performed at market standards and when they walked away not much remained.

Jim Collins in his book, “Good-To-Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…And Others Don’t”, unwinds an amazing study regarding industry leaders. Collins simply utilizes data to make his point; he’s not interested in opinions. That’s why I love this book and highly recommend it.

Collins allows the data to define what makes a good leader like Trump and Iacocca and what makes a great leader like Smith and Cain. There are several reasons that can’t be presented here in this short article. Collins defines leaders like Trump and Iacocca as effective visionaries and hard driving performers who care more about their own image than the companies they lead. They are charismatic leaders surrounded by a thousand “yes men”. They are unreachable leaders that build large walls. They simply bark out orders from the tower and expect to see results.

Collins goes on to define leaders like Smith and Cain as men who build enduring greatness through a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will. They live their lives as an open book. They are consistently open to everyone around them. They are quick to give credit for success to those outside themselves and quick to personally accept responsibility for failure. They are always more concerned about the company and its employees than themselves.

The good-to-great leaders never want to become larger-than-life heroes. They never aspire to be put on a pedestal or become unreachable icons. They are seemingly ordinary people quietly producing extraordinary results.

If an icon-ish pedestal is your goal, you’ll need to hide all your flaws; that will require walls. If greatness is your goal, your flaws will guide you toward someone outside yourself; no walls required.

Blessed…

Proverbs 3 contains one of the most quoted verses in wisdom literature:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,

and do not lean on your own understanding.

    In all your ways acknowledge him,

and he will make straight your paths.

(Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV)

The proverb begins with the admonition, “don’t forget what you have been taught”.  It goes on instructing the student to let the heart house truth and let it do the work. The psalmists proclaim God is “steadfast love” and “faithfulness” numerous times in the Psalter. Here our teacher is calling us to reflect those beautiful and powerful attributes of God in our daily life.

There is a result in doing this. One who trusts the Lord, not leaning on human understanding, will find “favor” and “success”. (vs. 4)  Most importantly favor in God’s eyes; but also in the eyes of people.

I encourage you to read this proverb today and think about its implications. The first 12 verses are a “mold” for every leader in the business world. (and everyone else) Mold your enterprises around these verses and you will have the most full and abundant career.

But that’s not the end of the proverb. Next comes a most amazing song of praise! Beginning in verse 12 and continuing for 24 verses our teacher dances before the Lord because he wears the gift of wisdom. This wisdom has one source; God. He is overwhelmed by it, overjoyed in it, and delighted to have his days governed through it. The teacher dances because it’s all God and it’s all good.

You have heard me say, “you can never raise above the company you keep.” What a blessing to keep the company of a teacher that dances before the Lord! I am blessed to be married to such a teacher. I’m not saying my wife goes twirling though the house all day, (although when I’m not home I suspect it happens on occasion) but it is a wonderful life spending days with one who seeks and delights in the wisdom of God.

My point: FIND TEACHERS WHO DANCE BEFORE THE LORD!

My wife is a writer and has recently gone back to school to sharpen her writing skills. She was required to submit a personal bio for one of her classes. As is her normal custom, she ran it by me to check for typos and such. I didn’t find any typos, but I did find myself overwhelmed and dancing before the Lord in thanksgiving for a Godly wife.

With her permission I share it with you….

The year is 2013 and slavery still exists.  There are over 27 million men, women, and children bound in shackles, sweatshops, or brothels.  No country or city is innocent.  Child prostitution and sex trafficking exists in our neighborhoods while slave labor merchandise clutter our homes.  

I understand slavery.  I once lived in captivity.  Not every slave wears visible chains or bares the scars of a master’s whip.  But every heart beating on this planet has at one time been a slave to something.  I barely survived a heart in the clutches of habitual sin.  

But now I live free.  Free to enjoy the security of my home, the sweet unity of my 32 year marriage, the beautiful relationship with my two married children, the immeasurable joy of my grandson’s hugs and the sweet anticipation of our second grandson. 

I’m at the stage of life when I face fewer years before me than behind.  Retirement is an option.  I’ve taught children to read and write as well as a bit of history, math and science.  Countless hours have been logged in community service.  Years were spent in ministries serving others as a teacher, mentor, pastor’s wife, and friend.  But I can’t stop now.  

While I rock my grandson, singing love songs into his ear, I wet his sweet cheeks with tears for the young women, children and babes who are raped daily of their innocence and hope.  

Most nights, I dream of traveling the world.  Not to delight in the exotic sights, but to search those desolate places tourist pay to ignore.  My goal is to write passionate stories that inflame my readers to action. 

While my husband networks CEOs to battle drug lords, slave traders, and sex traffickers, I continue to teach and train.  The billions of the walking-dead living like zombies craving a new heartbeat need to hear the truth.  

Those who never see the light of day or feel the warmth of a smile pray for abolitionists who will fight for them.  I am one person but I walk free in the supernatural power of a mighty God. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Daily Grind

I’m glad today is over. Why? The only way to describe what happened today is the “daily grind”. There were no aha! moments today. Needless to say I walked in the door at 5:30pm a little depressed. I sat down at my computer and checked my email. Just like a parental slap in the back of the head, an email from Rabbi Daniel Lapin straightened me out. Let me share a portion of it with you…

 

The Lord’s language has a word for an activity which might be staggeringly difficult to confront but which also might be the single most important assignment for any given moment of our lives.

That word is AVoDaH and one revealing example of its usage is this:

And they (the Egyptians) embittered their (the Israelites) lives with hard work, with mortar and bricks, and with all work in the field; all their work at which they worked them was with harshness.

(Exodus 1:14)

Every instance of the word ‘work’ in that verse, employs the Hebrew word Avodah. It suggests subjugation and servitude and certainly doesn’t sound like a positive word. It actually sounds like something you desperately want to avoid.

Don’t be too quick to jump to that conclusion. Let’s learn another Hebrew word for work – MeLaCHaH. Understanding it will make all the difference.

We find both words for work combined in the Fourth Commandment, instructing us to remember the Sabbath day.

Six days shall you work (AVoDaH) and do all your work (MeLaCHaH)…

Exodus 20:9

Why do we need both words? God is giving us a tremendously significant message.MeLaCHaH is the creative work that transforms our world and uplifts our lives, while Avodah is work that lacks that exciting element. Yet we do not get to doMeLaCHaH if we don’t first do our Avodah.

Life in Egypt was tough precisely because slaves have only Avodah with no possibility of MeLaCHaH. But don’t dream that you can enjoy MeLaCHaH without Avodah. Integrating the two types of work makes everything possible.

There is little as exciting as seeing one’s toddler blossom into a responsible youth and thriving adult with whom you share a close relationship. Achieving that requires many hours of consistent and sometimes unpleasant parenting (along with much prayer and blessing).

Making the big sale is thrilling. Hours of application, hard work, disappointment and dedication precede the excitement. Playing to a full house is thrilling, but years of perseverance lead to that moment.

Fortunately, we don’t need to wait years for the fulfillment of MeLaCHaH. Each of our days—and as the Fourth Commandment reveals, our weeks—holds both types of work. However, we do best knowing that the way the world really works, we should tackle the mundane and difficult with zest, for without it we will never achieve MeLaCHaH. We should rejoice in Avodah rather than resenting it.

–         Rabbi Daniel Lapin

 

 

It’s not what you know that counts…

You’ve heard the old adage, “It’s not what you know, but who you know that counts.”  Almost every person in the business world understands and has experienced its meaning. I’m not sure where this saying came from but I do know that it speaks of something found in the Word of God that is very meaningful. I’m referring to favor.  Listen to some passages from the Old Testament that refer to this subject…

Blessed is the one you choose and bring near, to dwell in your courts! We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house, the holiness of your temple! (Psalm 65:4 ESV)

Lord, you were favorable to your land; you restored the fortunes of Jacob. (Psalm 85:1 ESV)

O Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you; I will praise your name, for you have done wonderful things, plans formed of old, faithful and sure. (Isaiah 25:1 ESV)

For thus said the Lord of hosts, after his glory sent me to the nations who plundered you, for he who touches you touches the apple of his eye: (Zechariah 2:8 ESV)

Blessed is the one God chooses, not the one who is the best. The fortunes of Jacob were restored not because of what Jacob did, but because of the God that Jacob knew. God did wonderful things for you and me not because of what we are, but because before we were, God formed a plan. The apple of God’s eye deserves to be plundered, but God never breaks faithful relations with them.

There are many in the business world that feel this way regarding the matter… “For success, and especially to obtain employment, one’s knowledge and skills are less useful and less important than one’s network of personal contacts.”

I can’t tell you the number of times I have listened to an entrepreneur recount their success by attempting to convince me that he or she are “self-made millionaires.” They love to tell the stories that point to the fact that so often they picked themselves up by their own bootstraps. It doesn’t take much prodding to find however, the time and place when they were helped by someone that simply had favor toward them. The fact is, no one ever made it without help from an outside source that simply helped because they could. NO ONE! If you are successful it’s because you had help. Someone had favor toward you. A parent, a close relative, a mentor, a group of customers… someone gave you favor to get you started. This reality of favor being necessary in order to get your start toward success isn’t just a common thing, it is absolute. Personally, I think it should be made into a law much like the law of gravity.

Now, listen to a verse from the New Testament that speaks on this subject:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God… (Ephesians 2:8 ESV)

Where’s the word favor in this verse? It’s Grace. Yes grace. No matter how you look at it, God saved me by Grace which is unmerited favor. Favor toward me even though I didn’t earn it or deserve it.

Now, if this concept is so well known in the business world, shouldn’t it be a very powerful way to present the Gospel?

Here we go!

I’m sitting at what use to be my mother’s dining room table in a little house in my hometown in West Virginia. This rental will be my home away from home for a few weeks. It’s late Saturday evening and the night is cold. Saying goodbye to my family this morning was hard. Sitting here alone and thinking about them is harder.

However, Shelia (my wife) and I know that this is the first step toward the start of what we see as God’s plan for ministry. In the days to come I will be presenting to all that are interested the plan as we know it so far. I hope that you will join me as the Lord unfolds the plan and I begin by blogging the details and events. Please excuse the blog-site, it’s a little unruly, but I plan to place some organizing touches in the very near future.

So the Patriarch Project is off and running. It’s exciting! Details to come soon.