#240: Here’s Another Nice Mess You’ve Gotten Me Into!

Will God Still Use Me When I Mess Up?

“Here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into!” is a catch phrase popularized by Laurel and Hardy in nearly 20 of their movies that released in the 1930’s and 40’s. Laurel was continually getting the hapless pair into some kind of trouble and Hardy’s response was always “Here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into!”

Mess Up

The times may have changed, but it seems we still manage to get ourselves and others into some kind of mess or another on a regular basis.

The question on the mind of many Christians, especially those in leadership positions, is, “Will God still use me even if I mess up?”

The apostle Paul wrestled with this very question. He said, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do…For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do–this I keep on doing” (Romans 7:15, 19).

Will God Still Use Me?

Looking at some examples from the Old Testament it’s clear that God is a God of second chances, continuing to use those who mess up while following Him.

Adam & Eve. There’s that whole eating the apple issue against God’s command (Genesis 3). While there were consequences to their actions, God still used them to populate the world.

Jacob. Jacob deceived his father and took advantage of his brother, but God still used him (Genesis 25). God made a covenant with Jacob and Jacob became the father of the twelve tribes of Israel (Genesis 28).

Moses. Moses killed an Egyptian and buried him in the desert (Exodus 2). Then there is the issue of not following God’s command regarding speaking, not striking, the rock to get water (Numbers 20). Despite these transgressions, God used Moses to deliver His people out of Egypt to the Promised Land.

There are also several examples of God using people who messed up in the New Testament. Three of the most prominent examples are from Peter, James, and John, Jesus’ own disciples.

Peter #1. Peter rashly cut off the ear of Malchus, the servant of the High Priest (John 18). Jesus rebuked Peter telling him to put away his sword and then healed Malchus’ ear.

Peter #2. When Jesus warns the disciples they will all fall away from him that night; Peter declares that he will never deny Jesus. Peter goes so far as to say he will die with Jesus (Matthew 26). Then, as predicted, Peter denies Jesus three times before the next morning.

Peter #3, James & John. Jesus took Peter, James, and John with him into the Garden of Gethsemane and asked them to stay awake and keep watch while he prayed (Matthew 26). Three times Jesus checked on them, and three times they had failed to stay awake and keep watch.

These men were Jesus’ disciples. They had been with him for the three years of his earthly ministry. They had been personally discipled by Jesus. They had witnessed His miracles. They had performed miracles themselves in the power of His name.

Despite sitting at the feet of the Lord, they messed up. They made mistakes. Yet, the Lord continued to use them.

An Ongoing Struggle

We can sense Paul’s angst in the Romans 7 passage. He wants to do so much better, to be better as a follower of Christ. Yet, he struggled to do the good he knows he should do.

This same theme emerges again in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians:

For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me (1 Corinthians 15:9-10).

Despite all he has accomplished in the furtherance of the Kingdom, Paul says he is unworthy because of his past actions.

Yet, and this is most important, Paul realizes what has been done was done by God’s grace and the Holy Spirit working through him.

Leaders, we will mess up. We will never be the powerful, inspired leaders God intends us to be until we come to grips with our weaknesses and failures. We must, as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12:10, submit our weaknesses to God, then we are strong.

It is God’s will that we are made holy, conformed to His image (2 Corinthians 3:18b).

God does not condone our failures; He redeems them when we submit to Him. Because, as Paul said, God began a good work in us, and He will continue this work in us until we are united with Christ once again (Philippians 1:6).

So, no matter what mess you’ve gotten yourself into, submit your messiness to the Lord, and humbly ask Him to continue the process of making you into His glorious image.

There is much work left to be done, and you and I have a part to play in the Kingdom.

Many thanks to Pastor Doug Fields who gave me permission to adapt his wonderful sermon into this blog post. If you liked the post it’s because of him. If you didn’t like it, it’s all on me!

Join the Conversation

As always, questions and comments are welcome. Have you ever questioned how God could use you after you made a mess of things? Do you see how God can continue to use you when you submit to Him?

I’d love your help. This blog is read primarily because people like you share it with friends. Would you share it by pressing one of the share buttons below?

 

Category: Personal Development | Character

 

#239: The Woman Who Overcame Evil with Good

Leadership Lessons from the Lesser Known

On more than one occasion during my teenage years my mother, all 100-lbs of her, would have to step between my hot-headed father and me until cooler heads prevailed. Mom was always the level-headed, even-tempered one in our family.

Abigail

My mother’s actions that brought about peace in the family remind me of the Biblical account of Abigail recorded in 1 Samuel 25. There is much we can learn about leadership from mom and Abigail.

A Tense Confrontation

We are introduced to Abigail after a nasty confrontation between David’s men and her foolish husband, Nabal.

David and his army of 600 men had spent the year patrolling the area of Israel around where Nabal lived. They had protected Nabal’s servants, his sheep, and his crops. During harvest time, David sent 10-men off to Nabal to ask for an offering to help feed his men.

Nabal disrespected David’s men and arrogantly questioned their integrity as he refused their request and sent them away empty-handed.

David was furious when he learned of Nabal’s insults. He strapped on his sword, gathered his men, and headed off to kill all of Nabal’s household.

In the meantime, some of Nabal’s servants ran off to tell Abigail how Nabal had mistreated David’s men.

Abigail’s Wise Response

Without telling her husband, Abigail gathered up 200 loaves of bread, two skins of wine, five butchered sheep, a bushel of roasted grain, 100 clusters of raisins, and 200 cakes of pressed figs, and loaded them on donkeys. She headed off with her servants to meet David.

When Abigail saw David, she knelt at his feet and took responsibility for her husband’s foolishness. She asked David to accept her gifts and forgive them for the offense.

Abigail went on to praise David, saying the Lord would give him victory in his battles and he would not have remorse over shedding Nabal’s blood needlessly.

Abigail’s Leadership Lessons

There are many leadership lessons we can take away from Abigail’s interaction with David. Here are my top five:

1) Discernment. Abigail demonstrated discernment. She realized her husband had insulted David’s men and this had the potential to cause a drastic reaction from David.

Leadership Lesson. Effective leaders need a keen sense of discernment. Solomon prayed to God to give him discernment to lead the people (1 Kings 3:9). We should do the same!

2) Immediate Action. Abigail responded immediately when the news reached her. She assembled her offering to David and set out to meet him.

Leadership Lesson. There’s a time for thinking, and there is a time for action. When a crisis looms, leaders need to take immediate action. Many times in the Bible we see leaders praying for God’s guidance then taking action!

3) Humble Nature. When Abigail met David, she got off her donkey and humbled herself by kneeling before him.

Leadership Lesson. People in tense situations tend to go on the offensive to defend their positions. A leader who is humble will diffuse most situations.

4) Soft Answer. Abigail understood the power of Proverbs 15:1, “A soft answer turns away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.” She asked David to accept her offering, and took responsibility for her husband’s bad behavior.

Leadership Lesson. The buck stops with you, the leader. Emotional responses are diffused when you take responsibility for the situation.

5) Wise Counsel. Abigail counseled David not to take harsh action against Nabal that he would regret later. She assured him the Lord would give him victory over his enemies and he would do great things for the people of Israel if he did not shed blood needlessly.

Leadership Lesson. Once tempers have cooled, people are more open to accepting wise counsel. Leaders, take this opportunity to give counsel that builds your people and strengthens your organization.

Not every crisis can be averted, but strong leaders practice these five leadership lessons. Rate yourself on your effectiveness in each area and pick one to work on over the next month.

Join the Conversation

As always, questions and comments are welcome. Which of these five leadership lessons is most important to you? Why??

I’d love your help. This blog is read primarily because people like you share it with friends. Would you share it by pressing one of the share buttons below?

 

Category: Relationships | Healthy Alliances

#238: What Does It Take to be a Godly Leader or Follower?

Every leader I know deals with challenges to their leadership just about every day. These challenges come from the world around us, our own fleshly temptations, and the devil who would love to take us down!

Leader Follower

With so many forces coming against as leaders, it begs the question, “What does it take to be a Godly leader, or for that matter, a Godly follower?

The Apostle Peter warned of these very dangers in 1 Peter 5. Although Peter was addressing his fellow elders in the church, his warnings are equally valid for us as leaders in the workplace.

Be Shepherds

Peter began by admonishing leaders to be like shepherds caring for God’s flock. Being a shepherd doesn’t mean much to most of us in the business world, but it was perfectly clear to the people Peter was addressing. They all knew what the responsibilities of a shepherd entailed.

According to Psalm 23, there are five primary responsibilities of a shepherd,

1) to lead (Psalms 23:2),

2) to provide spiritual guidance and feeding (Psalm 23:3),

3) to offer comfort (Psalm 23:4),

4) to strengthen (Psalm 23:4), and

5) to correct (Psalm 23:5).

Based on the command to be a shepherd, leaders have a lot of big responsibilities! We are to lead, and that means we are out front making decisions based on what is best for the flock. We are to be spiritual leaders that feed the flock. We are to offer comfort when and where needed, and we are to strengthen the flock. And finally, when necessary we to are correct the flock.

Right Attitude

Next, Peter said leaders must have the right attitude about leading. We should lead, he said, not because we have to but because we are eager to serve the flock. We should not seek to lead for money or to have power over others.

Peter’s admonition about Christian leaders having the right attitude stands in stark contrast to the secular worldview in which leaders seek the position for the monetary rewards and for the power that comes with leadership.

Christians are to stand apart as leaders by having the attitude of a shepherd caring for their flock.

Be an Example

Third, Peter said Christian leaders are to be an example to those we lead. The example for a Christian leader is Jesus Christ, the chief shepherd. Just as Jesus is an example for Christian leaders, Christian leaders are to be an example to their flocks.

Advice for Everyone

Peter closed out his letter with instructions for everyone, leaders, and followers.

1) Be submissive to your leaders. Peter’s point about being submissive to leaders is directed to followers, but it’s important to note that everyone follows a leader. Everyone has a boss, and everyone is ultimately accountable to God.

2) Be humble toward one another. Both leaders and followers need to be humble toward one another, because as Peter reminds them, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (Proverbs 3:34).

3) Be Self-controlled and alert. Every Christian needs to be self-controlled in their own behavior. We also need to recognize that the devil is real, like a roaring lion seeking to devour those who stand for Christ. Therefore, we must remain on alert and resist the temptations of the devil.

4) Cast your cares on God. Peter reminds both leaders and followers to cast all our cares on God because He cares for us. Whatever trials, tribulations, or suffering we endure in this world are nothing compared to God’s grace and mercy.

Join the Conversation

As always, questions and comments are welcome. Have you struggled with any of the five elements of being a shepherd leader? Have you been a follower under a leader who was a poor example?

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Category: Relationships | Servant Leadership

 

#237: If You’re an Ox, Don’t Team Up with A Donkey!

The Danger of Yoked Relationships

The issue of yoked relationships in business is one of those Biblical principles that are easy to comprehend, but difficult to administer in real life.

Yoked Relationships Ox

This is especially true when a sure-fire opportunity to make an enormous amount of money comes via a partnership with a nonbeliever, and you must make a decision in the cold, hard dawn of reality: do you, or don’t you?

The verse that causes all this controversy is 2 Corinthians 6:14, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common?”

So, what exactly does the phrase, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers” mean? Let’s start back in Deuteronomy 22:10 where Moses instructed Israel, “Do not plow with an ox and a donkey yoked together.”

The yoke was a heavy beam that was strapped across the upper shoulders and around the neck of the animals to tie them together. The yoke was then harnessed to a plow or wagon. As the animals walked, the weight of the wagon or plow pulled on the harness through the center of the yoke between the two animals.

The selection of animals to be yoked together was given a great deal of thought. For example, animals of the same type were paired together; oxen with oxen, donkeys with donkeys.

The animals also needed to be about the same size and strength. If one animal were taller than the other, the smaller animal would bear the greater load and soon become tired. If one animal were stronger than the other, it would pull ahead of the weaker animal.

And finally, the animals needed to have a similar temperament. You were asking for trouble if you tied two strong willed animals together. One needed to be a leader, the other needed to be willing to follow.

If all these conditions were not met, the animals would be “unequally” yoked, and would not be able to get as much work done as a better-matched pair of animals.

So, what do Moses’s instructions to farmers and Paul’s to the Corinthians have to do with us in today’s business? Plenty!

What Constitutes a Yoke?

Of the sixty-six times that the Bible refers to a yoke, it is only used eight times in conjunction with animals. The other 58 times the word “yoke” is used it is regarding a burden or relationship with people and God

A yoke then is any relationship that formally ties two people together where the actions of one can directly affect another.

We have three basic legal forms in today’s business; proprietorship, partnership, and corporation. In a proprietorship with employees, there is a relationship between employees and the employer. In the corporation, there are employee/employer relationships, as well as relationships with stockholders. In the partnership, there is a relationship between the partners and the employees.

Is Partnership a Yoke?

There are at least eight legal forms of partnership. Generally speaking, they can be divided into two classifications; general and limited.

In a general partnership, partners are active or have the right to be active in the partnership. In the limited form, a partner only has an investment interest, without any right or say in the operation of the business.

General partnerships, regardless of the legal form, constitute yoked relationships because there is a formal agreement between two or more parties regarding the operation of a business. Clearly then, general partnerships constitute a yoke. Believers should avoid general partnerships with nonbelievers.

Limited partnerships do not usually constitute a yoke because the limited partner has no say in the operation of the partnership.

Is Stock Ownership a Yoke?

For most of us the answer to the question, “Is stock ownership a yoke?” is “No.” A few shares of a company held as an investment do not constitute a yoke. You could, after all, dissolve the relationship with a simple call to your broker.

But what if you hold a majority stock interest in a company and are an employee? What about a closely held corporation where there are few owners who have equal shares?

The guiding principle is this; does the relationship bind you legally to the company or other shareholders? If you have a majority stock interest and are an employee, you probably have a legal fiduciary relationship.

If in a closely held corporation, the intent is to create a relationship between shareholders for the purpose of sharing responsibilities and profits, then you have a partnership whether the word partnership was used or not.

Is the Employee/Employer Relationship a Yoke?

The employee/employer relationship does not constitute a yoke. The employer has authority over the subordinate employee.

As an employee, you need to maintain your integrity in all business relationships. As Colossians 3:23 reminds us, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord.” Your work should be your witness to the world.

The possible exception to the employer/employee relationship as being a yoke might exist when an employee is under a contract to the employer. For example, an actor, model, consultant, etc. If an employment contract is involved, you might find yourself in a yoked relationship. Be very careful with employment contracts, and remember the guiding principle; is the purpose of the relationship a partnership?

What About Existing Relationships?

The advice to not enter into a relationship in the future is easy to take, but what about relationships you’re in already? Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians gives us some insight as he discusses what to do in a marriage relationship (1 Cor. 7:12-13), “…If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him.”

The principle is if you are in a relationship with a nonbeliever you should stay in it unless the relationship threatens your spiritual values. Paul goes on to say, “But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances…” (1 Cor. 7:15). If a nonbelieving partner wants to leave the partnership, you should let him.

What do you do if the nonbelieving partner is a family member, perhaps a parent, or a child? The same principles apply. If you are in a relationship that does not compromise your spiritual values, you should try to make the relationship work, “…each one should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned to him and to which God has called him” (1 Cor. 7:18). Perhaps the relationship you’re in is just where the Lord wants you to be to accomplish His work!

Bonus Whitepaper

This week’s post is excerpted from a 6-page whitepaper entitled, Yoked Relationships—If You’re an Ox, Don’t Team Up With A Donkey.”

This whitepaper includes a broader discussion of yoked relationships and five tips for creating a successful partnership.

You can download the whitepaper here: Yoked Relationships—If You’re an Ox, Don’t Team Up With A Donkey.”

Join the Conversation

As always, questions and comments are welcome. Have you been unequally yoked in a business relationship? If so, what made the relationship successful or what made it difficult for you?

I’d love your help. This blog is read primarily because people like you share it with friends. Would you share it by pressing one of the share buttons below?

 

Category: Skills |Structure/Organization