Encouragement, Issues of the Day, Prayer

How Do You Spend Your Free Time?

One of my favorite New Testament verses states, “That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake.”  (Matthew 13:1) I simply love this verse because I crave what it says.  Our Lord, while on earth, with just a three-year window, took time to sit by a lake.  What was He doing?  That’s just it, He wasn’t “doing,” He was being.  He took time out to rest, to reflect, to breath in the fresh, moisture-filled air that surrounds the tranquil presence of water. I see Him in this moment as having no “to-do” list, no sermon preparation, no rushed got-to-do-it-now feelings… just rest-filled hanging out with His heavenly Father.

We live in a culture that is noisy and full of time-stealing stuff. We’re always accessible. Can we take time to “sit by the lake” and simply enjoy His presence?  Work is a gift from God, but so is rest. How do you like to rest? Remember, life is a balancing act in order to maintain our spiritual, physical and emotional health. Separating and centering ourselves every once in a while is a really spiritual thing to do, just ask Jesus.

Encouragement, Issues of the Day

Are You So Fearful of Offending That You Withhold the Truth?

Are you so fearful of offending others in today’s culture that in reality you hold back the truth? Don’t be. Jesus wasn’t. Our Savior never made it a habit of being politically correct or inoffensive. In fact, His sharing the truth as revealed to Him by His Father, often offended many. Because He was familiar to the people in His hometown, the Bible tells us that His hometown crowd took offense and called Him just a “carpenter’s son.”

A while ago, after a fellow flight passenger asked me about a certain “hot button” here in the United States, I gave him an honest answer. I knew I was being set up, but I also knew I had the opportunity to speak God’s truth concerning the matter. (I have long learned that my opinion means little to most, so I try to stick with a reference from the word of God if I can.) Immediately he took offense and refused to speak to me the remainder of the flight.

One day Jesus was conversing with the Pharisees and told them they honor His Father with their lips only and their hearts are far from God. Further He told them that they worship in vain. Pretty bold truth. Later His disciples came to Him and said, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?” What was Jesus’ response? “…They are blind guides.” (Matthew 13: 57)

Sometimes the way of the cross is offensive, but I am not saying or giving myself permission to simply go out and offend as many people as I can. Being a caustic, offensive person on purpose is stupid. I need to do my best to live at peace with all men, but never do I desire to become silent out of fear or embarrassment of my Lord’s truth. I am here to influence culture rather than allowing culture to influence me.

Jeremiah said these relevant words back in his day, “To whom can I speak and give warning? Who will listen to me? Their ears are closed so they cannot hear. The word of the Lord is offensive to them; they find no pleasure in it. But…I cannot hold it in.” (Jeremiah 6: 10, 11) Let Jeremiah’s words ring in our ears and when we have a God-given opportunity to share truth don’t hold it in.

Children, Encouragement, Prayer

Recognizing THE Voice

From time to time the Wall Street Journal has some fascinating stories to tell. I recently caught one that was titled: U.S. To Rebels: Listen To Mom. The article was a worthy read which  shares the story of rebels who steal children from their parents as young as age 5. Such was the case with Obira Julious from Uganda, forced to grow up in the Central African Republic. He was compulsorily inducted into the Lord’s Resistance Army thirteen years ago and is now age 18. Hiding in the brush while a U.S. military helicopter flew over him, he thought he recognized a voice.

US Army psyop specialists have begun to record the voices of mothers and fathers and are creating personalized leaflets dropping them from the helicopters. Played over the loud speakers of the flying birds are messages from mothers like, “I am asking you to be strong and not to worry about anything; please come home.” And, “The soldiers will not harm you; they will bring you home safely.”

Obira had not heard his mother’s voice for over 13 years, could he be sure it was her? After decades of violence, the U.S. military is offering hope to these child soldiers to return home without firing a shot. Obira did just that and is now back home in Uganda with his family who longed for his return.

It’s a sad story with a great ending as a life was saved through one mother’s voice and the U.S. Army. Thank you to those men and women who through their military service not only protect our nation, but who are saving lives like Obira. This story is a great reminder to us concerning the voices we are listening to and the voices we need to listen to.

Today if you hear his voice, do not harden your heart… (Ps. 95: 7, 8; Heb. 3: 7,8)

The sheep listen to his voice. (Jn. 10: 3)

If anyone hears my voice and opens the door…” (Rev. 3: 20)

“Help me, Father, to hear and listen to Your voice above all the others I hear on a daily basis.”

Encouragement, Leadership, Training

Chasing Leaders

There are plenty of differences in relational styles. Some of us are more verbal and others more auditory and the like. Some are slow responders and others are really quick on their feet. Relational styles even differ on how they like to receive information or requests, e.g., phone calls, text messages, email, Facebook messaging, etc. But when we are leading a group of people and those persons cannot obtain a timely response from us through any of the various means of communication mentioned, then we are requiring those same persons to chase us.

Chasing leaders is not fun. In fact, sometimes it’s downright frustrating and futile. If you’re a leader who needs to be chased, then please, for the sake of the team and the sanity of others, listen up.

No one, I repeat, no one enjoys chasing their leader in order to get things done or make a decision. In fact, if you’re a leader that has to be continually chased, then you’re a leader who does not care as deeply as you should for those whom you lead. If your subordinate or even your supervisor has to call you, text you, email you or send smoke signals repeatedly for a response, then you are in effect dishonoring them by sending the message that your time is more valuable than their time. It conveys that you are too caught up in your world to respond in a timely fashion. Making it difficult to get a response from you slows down efficiency, inhibits order, frustrates relationships and spreads an, “I don’t care attitude” around the workplace.

If you’re this person, here are some suggested changes for you:

  • If providing an accurate response is going to take some extra time, then begin by sending a brief message in return like, “I’ve gotten your request and I will get back to you by the end of the week.” Then, follow through on your word.
  • If you have an administrator type person, ask them to get back to the request to discuss a time to connect.
  • If people are reminding you that they are calling once again, pick up on that, you might have already begun to frustrate them.
  • Maybe you’re the forgetful type. Write down or place a message on your phone to remind yourself to return the call within a certain time frame.
  • Apologize for responding too slowly and make a commitment to the person to respond in a more timely fashion in the future.

Finally, if this speaks to you, confess that you deal with this issue and be accountable to change for the better, because those whom you oversee and those who oversee you are counting on it and integrity in leadership requires it.

Encouragement, Issues of the Day

I Was Not Disobedient To The Vision

Paul the apostle was speaking to King Agrippa, sharing his personal testimony and encounter with God (Acts 26). It was quite a story and quite an opportunity. After intently listening to Paul, King Agrippa asks him if he thought that in such a short time he, the king, would be persuaded to be a Christian? (Acts 26:28) Paul’s story must have made an impression, but that phrase Paul used, “I was not disobedient to the vision” stayed with me as I once again read this encounter.

I long to be able to say at the end of my life that I was not disobedient to any vision my heavenly Father had given to me. Perhaps I was slow at receiving it and comprehending it, but once understanding it to be from God, was ready to commit to those initial attempts. In order to hear a “Well done” in heaven, we need to have obeyed and said, “Yes, Lord” on earth. Vision is birthed in prayer someone recently said to me. Vision is not a human concocting. True vision will command a change and stretch our faith. God’s visions are bigger than us, creating a healthy dependence upon the vision Giver. Vision from God is normally not attainable through our flesh-filled efforts. It is not just a, “Let’s get to work” attitude, but rather it is more of an, “If I don’t do this I am in trouble.”

What vision are you walking in today? Are there visions in your life, dreams that cannot happen in your human effort and require a stretching of your faith? Can you say along with Paul, I was not/will not be disobedient to the vision?