#166: What Does it Mean to Live Intentionally?

Picture a beautiful river flowing lazily through a mountain valley. Standing on the bank, you throw a stick into the middle of the river and watch as it floats away downstream.

Intentionally, Canoe

Now imagine you are in a canoe. On the banks of the river are the most picturesque sites imaginable. You have two options. You can float along downstream looking at the sites as you go. Or, you can paddle up close and explore a site before continuing your journey down the river.

That river is like the time in our lives. It has as beginning and an end, just like our lives. And it moves steadily along whether we like it or not! Each of us is on a journey down the river of life.

It is a unique journey, created by God just for us. Your journey is different than mine. My journey is different than yours. Each of us is on a journey God made just for us.

The sites along the way are opportunities.

Here’s the thing, though. There are different kinds of opportunities.

Some of the opportunities are bad. They will take you away from the journey God designed for you.

Some of the opportunities aren’t bad in and of themselves, but they will distract you and keep you busy so you don’t have time for the opportunities God made just for you.

Some of the opportunities are the ones God made just for you. These are the ones that, if pursued, will enable you to live the kind of intentional, purpose-driven life God intends.

To live intentionally, you must be willing to paddle to the side and take a closer look.

You must consider each opportunity and decide: Is this an opportunity that will take me away from God’s best for me? Is this an opportunity that will distract me from being able to pursue God’s best for me? Or is this one of those precious opportunities God has given me to live the intentional life He designed just for me?

Paul, writing to the Ephesians, exhorted them to be careful to live their lives as wise men who make the most of every opportunity.

“Be very careful, then, how you live–not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil (Ephesians 5:15-16).

Then Paul admonished them not to live foolishly, but to live according to the Lord’s will.

“Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is” (Ephesians 5:17).

Paul’s point is the wise man is discerning, not foolish. The wise man will seize the opportunities God brings to live the powerful, intentional life He intends for us.

The question is, are you floating down the river in your canoe passing by the opportunities of life? Are you letting the river carry you wherever it will?

Or are you living intentionally as God intended by paddling over to explore the opportunities?

As you consider each opportunity, do you reject those that take you away from God’s best?

Do you avoid those that are distractions that keep you from God’s best?

Do you take full advantage of every opportunity to live the intentional life God intended for you?

Are you making the most of your journey down the river of life?

Moses realized that even if we live 70 or 80 years our time in this life is short and we need God’s wisdom in our hearts to live the kind of life God intended for us (Psalm 90:10, 12).

Join the Conversation

As always, questions and comments are welcome. How do you feel when you are living intentionally, on the journey God designed just for you?

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Category: Skills | Time Management

 

 

 

#165: Do You Respond to God Like Lydia?

Lessons from the Lessor Known

I believe there is something important we can and should learn from every person God presents to us in His Word.

Lydia

We meet one such person in the book of Acts. She is referred to as Lydia though we don’t know for sure if this is her real name or the name of her native city. We don’t know anything about her background other than she was from Thyatira and Paul met her in Philippi which was a Roman colony.

Luke writes that he and Paul, along with Timothy and Silas arrived in Philippi and stayed there for several days. On the Sabbath, they went outside the city gate by the river where the Jews of the city gathered to pray. They sat down and spoke to the women gathered there.

“One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us” (Acts 16:14-15).

It is only two verses but in them we learn four important things about Lydia.

A Business Woman

Lydia was from Thyatira where some of the best purple cloth in the world was made. Living in Philippi, Lydia had become a prominent business woman who sold purple cloth which was much sought after throughout the Roman empire.

Her acumen as a businesswoman provided a large house and servants to care for her and her family. Her house itself must have been large enough to accommodate her family, their servants, and eventually, Paul and his three travelling companions as guests.

Her success as a businesswoman is especially noteworthy given the paternal dominance of Roman society.

A Spiritual Woman

The Jewish population in Philippi must have been small because there was no synagogue there (10 Jewish men were required to start a synagogue). Lydia, a proselyte to Judaism, joined with other women daily by the river outside the city to worship God.

As Paul spoke that Sabbath day, Lydia listened attentively and the Lord opened her heart to receive the message spoken by Paul.

A Christian Woman

Lydia responded immediately to Paul’s preaching and was baptized as a believer in Christ. She evidently carried the news back to her household. Because of her faith and witness, her entire household became believers and were baptized.

A Hospitable Woman

Immediately after her baptism, Lydia insisted Paul and his three travelling companions come and stay at her house as her guests. Later, when Paul and Silas were released from prison Lydia welcomed them back into her home (Acts 16:38-40).

Lessons from Lydia for Us

I see two especially important lessons from Lydia for us today:

  • Lydia responded to God. Most important, Lydia was a devout, spiritually open, and discerning woman who worshipped God. She went to the river and met with other believers daily to pray and worship God. She responded immediately to Paul’s message about Christ. Her enthusiasm for her new faith allowed her to evangelize the rest of her household.
  • Lydia used her talents and gifts for the kingdom. First, she was a successful businesswoman. She continued her business in a Gentile-dominated world after accepting Christ. She did not leave her business to enter “ministry” but continued to run her business as a ministry. Second, Lydia cared for the saints. Lydia was a woman with the gift of hospitality who opened her home to Paul and his friends even after they bore the stigma of having been thrown into prison.

I can think of nothing more important to us a Christians today than to be diligent in our worship of God and to be open to His leading in our lives. And then, to respond to the Lord’s leading by using our gifts and talents to further the Kingdom of God.

Join the Conversation

As always questions and comments are welcome. Have you worked with or do you know a “Lydia?” Have you responded to God’s call on your life? Are you using the gifts and talents He gave you to further the Kingdom?

 

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Category: Personal Development | Character

 

 

 

#164: Are you a fig tree leader or a thornbush leader?

When I was only 7 or 8 years old I learned two important lessons from my grandparents though I didn’t fully understand them at the time.

Fig tree leader

In eastern Washington where I grew up, there were a lot of fruit trees, especially apples, cherries, and peaches. When the fruit was in season we would go to the you-pick farms and get bushel loads of fresh fruit that grandma would can and put in the cellar to enjoy all year long.

Lesson #1: A Tree is Known by  Its Fruit

The first lesson is if you want apples, you need an apple tree. If you want peaches, you need a peach tree. I know, pretty deep, huh? A tree is known by its fruit!

It turns out, and this is what I learned later in life, the same principle applies to people!

Jesus, teaching the disciples said, “No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers” (Luke 6:43-44).

A fig tree produces delicious figs. A thornbush produces, well, nothing but thorns.

Jesus is telling the disciples they need to be good trees who bear good fruit. They need to be like fig trees who produce delicious fruit.

But Jesus is also teaching the disciples the way to tell if someone is good or bad is to examine their fruit. In the long run, good people bear good fruit and bad people bear bad fruit.

Throughout my career, I found Jesus’ teaching to be true. Good people produce good fruit, and bad people produce bad fruit. You can tell whether a person is good or bad by the fruit they produce.

Jesus went on to say that a good man brings good things out of the good stored in his heart while an evil man brings out the evil stored in his heart (Luke 6:45).

The distinction Jesus is making is the good that a good man produces comes from deep inside. Their goodness comes from the good that is in their hearts. A person’s goodness or badness is a reflection of the condition of their heart.

If our hearts are pure and focused on the things of God, then we will produce good fruit. If, however, our hearts are focused on selfish things, things of the world, then we will produce bad fruit.

Lesson #2: Sometimes a Good Tree Produces Bad Fruit

A second lesson I learned picking fruit as a young lad was every once in a while I would reach up to pick an apple and find it was bad. Occasionally that good looking peach was all mush on the inside.

The tree was good, but once in a while, it produced a piece of bad fruit.

It turns out, people are like that as well. We may be good trees, but even the best of us will produce a piece of bad fruit. We are, after all, living in a fallen world and last time I looked, none of us is perfect.

So when you look at a tree, you judge the whole tree, not a single piece of fruit. A good person will produce good fruit. Sure we mess up once in a while, but the test of our character, of our hearts, is the good fruit we produce over time.

As leaders, we are known by our fruit. Our employees, our co-workers, and our customers will judge us by the fruit we produce. We will either be known, like Jesus said, as fig trees producing good fruit, or as thornbushes, producing bad fruit.

Are you a fig tree leader, or a thornbush leader?

Join the Conversation

As always questions and comments are welcome. Have you worked for fig tree leaders? Have you worked for thornbush leaders? What impact did each have on you? On the organization?

 

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Category: Personal Development | Character

 

 

#163: Is Integrity the Most Important Building Block of Personal Development?

One only needs to flip through the business section of the newspaper to see that integrity in business is lacking. It seems that on a daily basis there are stories about Wall Street, real estate and precious metals swindles, bankruptcies caused by corrupt management, and worst of all, religious leaders who abandon biblical principles in the quest for power and fame.

Integrity walks securely

This kind of behavior is an insidious growth like cancer; by the time you discover it, it is very difficult to cut out of an organization. An organization with integrity is nothing more than the sum of the individuals who have integrity. Like yeast that leavens the whole lump, one individual without integrity has the power to destroy an otherwise sound organization.

Reviewing the state of society one can only conclude that there is a definite lack of moral principle, that the principles that do exist are not sound, or both.

The first biblical breach of integrity comes in Genesis 3:6 when Eve took the first bite of the apple, despite the fact that she knew God’s commandment not to eat from the tree. Ever since that fateful day, sinful man has lived with lapses of integrity. Only Jesus lived a life of complete integrity.  Every one of the rest of us has to struggle with it every day. One would hope that since we have the Bible, which provides many accounts of the results of man’s lapses with integrity, that we would have learned something.

A 1987 Gallup poll reported that 42% of Americans doubt the honesty of some, if not most, appeals for religious donations. In another Gallup poll, 43% of those who don’t attend religious services say they have taken home supplies from work. Sadly, so do 37% of churchgoers. Thirty-four percent of the unchurched report calling in to work sick when they weren’t, as opposed to 27% of the churched. Gallup goes on in situation after situation concluding that “These findings…show little difference in the ethical behavior of the churched and the unchurched.”

If the churched are only marginally more ethical in daily life than the unchurched, then we need to put on the breastplate of righteousness (Ephesians 6:14) and start living the life of integrity for which we have been set apart! According to Webster’s dictionary, integrity is “soundness of and adherence to moral principle and character; uprightness, honesty.” The message is clear. Not only must there be adherence to moral principles, but the principles themselves must be sound.

Of the sixteen times that the word integrity is used in the Old Testament, we find a number of references to the heart, judgment that comes with a lack of integrity, uprightness, our walk with God, and the blessing that comes with a life of integrity.

Integral Integrity

The Old Testament refers to “the integrity of heart” three times (Gen 20:5, Gen 20:6, and 1 Kings 9:4). The principle in each of these references is that integrity is something that lives in our hearts, it is not something to be put on and taken off at will. Integrity of heart is something you either have or do not have.

A man with integrity holds it deep within his heart and as God said to Satan regarding Job “…he still holds fast his integrity” (Job 2:3). The implication from the Hebrew is that Job’s integrity is fastened to him and that it strengthens him. If a man has integrity, you can see it in his very nature. It is a part of the man that cannot be separated from him because he “holds fast his integrity.”

The Benefits of Integrity

In his book Disciplines of a Godly Man, Richard Hughes notes five benefits of integrity: character, conscience, intimacy, elevation, and evangelism.

Character. Integrity builds character. Paul writing to the Philippians said, “Finally brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is anything of excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these” (4:8 NAS). By focusing on thinking and doing what is right you will build character.

Conscience. “He who walks with integrity walks securely, But he who perverts his ways will be found out” (Proverbs 10:9). There is enough stress in life without adding the stress that comes from wondering whether we will ever get “caught.” A man with integrity will boldly hold to his principles despite the deceitful actions of those around him.

Intimacy. Integrity creates an opportunity for a growing, intimate relationship with God: “Thou dost desire truth in the innermost being” (Psalm 51:6 NAS). Having the desire to have a clean heart is a big step toward building an intimate relationship with God.

Elevation. A lack of integrity is like yeast that leavens the lump; it will eventually effect the entire organization. Likewise, a leader who is an outspoken proponent of integrity tends to build up those around him by developing their honesty and character. Psalm 78:72 speaks of Jacob as Israel’s shepherd, “So he shepherded them according to the integrity of his heart, and guided them with his skillful hands.”

Solomon wrote in Proverbs 20:7, “A righteous man walks in his integrity. How blessed are his sons after him.” Your example of integrity will not only elevate your peers but will provide an example for those who will follow after you!

Evangelism. We are examples to the world. It is a sad commentary indeed that churchgoers are only slightly more honest than the unchurched. We have little hope of convincing others that there is something special about an intimate relationship with God if it doesn’t show in the way we lead our lives!

One Final Thought

Ask yourself the question, “Where can I find people who are examples of a life of integrity?” Take a look at politicians, sports figures, musicians, entertainers, and business leaders. It’s hard isn’t it?

While there are many exceptional people in all of these fields that live their lives with integrity, it is easier for us to recall the politicians sleeping in the wrong beds or taking payoffs, sports figures convicted of illegal gambling or going through drug rehab programs, talented musicians who lost their lives to drugs, entertainers who tell big lies to gain publicity, and business leaders who manufacture products that they know are unsafe in plants that they know are hazardous to the health of workers.

Think for a moment about why these people compromised their integrity.

Was it for money, for power, for fame? If you want your organization to have integrity, then you must demonstrate integrity in your actions first. The organization will follow.

Every day is an opportunity to succeed or fail in your goal to live with integrity. Perhaps it will be of some encouragement to consider Job, who after losing his family, his possessions, his great wealth, and being stricken with painful disease said to his accusers “…till I die I shall not put my integrity away from me” (Job 27:5).

Bonus WhitePaper

If you would like a broader discussion on this topic, download the free 5-page whitepaper, “Is Integrity the Most Important Building Block of Personal Development?” It includes a bonus discussion of  eight powerful ideas will help you build integrity in yourself and your organization:

Join the Conversation

As always questions and comments are welcome. Have you had to deal with coworkers or bosses who struggled to maintain their integrity? If so, what effect did that have on you? On the organization?

 

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Category: Personal Development | Character