#227: Shall I Do the Good I Know To Do?

There are days when I wake up thinking, “Good morning, God.” But there are days; I hate to admit it when I am more likely to wake up thinking, “Good God, it’s morning!”

Good Evil

Some days I just don’t “feel” like being a good Christian.

Now, this is a problem. The rest of the world could care less how I feel when I wake up. People are going to look at me and decide, “Is this a reflection of Jesus I see?” or “Is this a reflection of the spawn of Satan?”

A perfect example is when I get behind the wheel of my car. If I have plenty of time to get to my destination, and the freeway is flowing along, then I am pretty likely to wave and let you in when you are merging into my lane.

BUT, if I am late. If the freeway is not flowing freely. If you didn’t signal before you cut in front of me. Then I will likely offer you words of encouragement to improve your driving. If you cut in front of me and then slow down, then I will likely suggest locations for you to park your car until you learn how to drive.

I know it’s just me. I know these thoughts have never crossed your mind when you are driving.

The conversations I have are just between the other driver and me. Oh, and my passengers. And of course, God.

Here’s the point. Every day should be a “Good morning, God” kind of day. After-all, it is only by God’s grace that He gave me another day to live and to love.

Every day is an opportunity for me to reflect God’s love and grace to the world. The trouble is, I am weak and full of corruptible sin.

I Fail to Do the Good I know to Do

There are times I know the good I should do, and I fail to do it.

  • I know I should be relaxed and patient when I am behind the wheel of my car.
  • I know I should respond to that email request today because I promised I would.
  • I know I should work on that project at work because I committed to finishing it by tomorrow.
  • I know I shouldn’t listen to the gossip in the office.
  • I know I should help out that homeless guy who is looking for some food.

Yes, I know the good I should do, but sometimes I just don’t do it.

Jesus’ Lessons from the Parables

Jesus frequently taught the disciples this lesson about discerning what should be done and not fail to do what we should.

In the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25: 14-30), there is the man who received one talent of gold with instructions to invest it until his master returned. Instead of investing the gold, the man hid it in the ground. He knew what he should do, but he failed to do it.

In the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) a priest and a Levite purposely avoid helping a badly beaten man left at the side of the road. They knew what they should do, but they failed to do it.

In the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31), the rich man didn’t care about people while he was alive. Then wanted special treatment after he died. He knew what he should have done while he was alive, but he failed to do it.

There are a lot of other examples. In fact, much of Jesus’ teaching touches on this topic of knowing what we should do and fail to do it.

James’ Drives the Point Home

It is no wonder that at the beginning of his book, James admonished believers to be “doers of the Word and not hearers only” (James 1:22). Then, summarizing his instructions, he concludes saying, “Therefore, it is sin for the person who knows to do what is good and doesn’t do it.” (James 4:17.

These are sins of omission. Sins of omission are those that accrue to us because we fail to do something we knew we should do.

Our Christian experience is expressed every day. Not just through avoiding the obvious commission of sin but also the sins of omission.

Christians should always be doers of the Word; people who know the good to do and do it!

Join the Conversation

As always, questions and comments are welcome. Have you struggled at times knowing the good that needs to be done, but not doing it?

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Category: Personal Development | Character

 

#226: Remaining True to Your Principles in a Spiritual Battle

Leadership Lessons from the Lesser Known

I imagine most of you are familiar with the adulterous story of David and Bathsheba. This tragedy is usually told from King David’s perspective. But what about Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband?

David hgnds letter to Uriah. Principles

This month in our Lessons from the Lesser Known I want us to shift our focus to see what we can learn from Uriah the Hittite.

Uriah’s Backstory

Uriah was a soldier in Kings David’s army. Some scholars suggest he carried the rank of a general. Uriah was honored as one of David’s 37 mighty men by David himself (2 Samuel 23:39).

Uriah’s home was just down the hill from King David’s palace which suggests that he was a man of means and social standing (2 Samuel 11:2).

David’s Treachery

While his army was out fighting against the Ammonites, King David was sitting back in his palace. He saw Bathsheba bathing on her rooftop. He inquired about her, and despite knowing she was Uriah’s wife, he had her brought to him. David slept with her, and she became pregnant.

Hoping to conceal his act, David called for Uriah to be brought back from the battle under the guise of giving David a status report. David’s plan was that Uriah would go home and get his wife pregnant before returning to battle.

Uriah stayed at the palace with David’s servants that night rather than going home. The next day, David got Uriah drunk and tried a second time to get him to sleep with Bathsheba. But Uriah spent the night with David’s servants again.

Because David’ attempts to get Uriah to sleep with Bathsheba failed, David sent orders to Joab, his commander, to send Uriah into the battle where the fighting was the fiercest. Uriah died in battle, and his death was reported to David.

Uriah’s Principles

When David confronted Uriah about why he had not gone home and slept with Bathsheba, Uriah offered a principled explanation. Uriah said,

“The ark and Israel and Judah are staying in tents, and my master Joab and my lord’s men are camped in the open fields. How could I go to my house to eat and drink and lie with my wife? As surely as you live, I will not do such a thing!” (2 Samuel 11:11).

Uriah put God first (the ark of God). He put God’s people (Judah and Israel) second. Then Uriah put God’s servants (Joab and the men of David’s army) next.

God first. God’s people second. God’s servants third. They were in the midst of a battle, camped in tents and open fields. Uriah could not see himself enjoying the comforts of home while his fellow warriors were not.

Uriah’s principles stand in stark contrast to David’s behavior. David should have been out leading his army. Instead, he stayed in the comfort of his palace while his men fought against God’s enemies for him.

This is bad enough, but he compounds his error by succumbing to lusts of the flesh when he inquired about a married woman, has her brought to him, and has sex with her.

David later married Bathsheba, but God considered the whole matter evil (2 Samuel 11:27).

Uriah, fighting a physical battle, remained true to his principles and faithful to God. David, fighting a spiritual battle, put his principles aside for his selfish interest.

Leaders, in this fallen world we are certain to face some combination of physical and spiritual battles. Let us strive to keep our eyes upon God the Father who has promised to give us the strength we need to stay true to Him (Philippians 4:13).

Join the Conversation

As always, questions and comments are welcome. Has adhering to your principles ever put you in a difficult or even dangerous situation? How did you respond?

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Category: Personal Development | Character

 

#222: Is This Standing in the Way of Your Success?

Henry Ford once said, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right! Ford’s point is your attitude often determines whether you succeed or fail.

Success

If you convince yourself that you will be victorious, you are more likely to be successful. If, however, you convince yourself that you are doomed to fail, then likely, you will fail.

I guarantee you, when Michael Phelps (28 Olympic Medals) stepped up on the starting block at the end of the pool he saw himself swimming all out, defeating his opponents. He did not picture himself belly flopping and coming in second!

When Larisa Latynina (18 Olympic Medals) mounted a balance beam, she pictured herself executing a flawless routine. She certainly didn’t imagine herself falling off the beam.

If you’re a golfer, you know if you are driving over water and you think, “don’t hit the water, don’t hit the water” the next sound you’ll hear is kerplunk as your ball hits the water!

Our Attitude Does Make a Difference!

Yes, our attitude does make a difference. A negative attitude almost always precedes a negative outcome. So, negative attitudes limit our success.

The thing is, many of our negative attitudes are distortions of reality and thus are false beliefs. John Townshend, in his book Leadership Beyond Reason, describes what he calls cognitive distortions, that limit our success:

  • “I’ve tried, and nothing helps/works. There is nothing left to try.
  • Afraid to take the initiative. You’re waiting for someone else to decide or do something.
  • Fear of failure. This causes you to focus only on the negative. You may justify it as just being realistic, but it is anything but reality.
  • Defensive thinking. You won’t own your part of a problem, and you rationalize your position.
  • All-or-nothing thinking. You believe there is only one solution to a problem and can’t accept there might be other ways to handle a situation.
  • False self-thinking. You try to be someone you’re not to fit an image you’re trying to project or to please others.

In each case, these cognitive distortions, or limiting beliefs, prevent us from seeing ourselves the way we really are. We don’t see a situation the way it really is. The result is limited success or outright failure.

These false views that limit our success are the work of Satan. They are not the attitudes that God desires for us.

God’s Desire for Our Attitude

As we read through the Scripture, we encounter people with limiting beliefs over and over again. Adam was defensive. At times Moses acted helpless and negative. Nehemiah had to deal with city leaders who were passive and thought falsely about themselves. The list of characters exhibiting one of these limiting beliefs goes on and on.

But this is not God’s plan. In fact, with nearly every case of a limiting belief, we see God refuting the limiting belief and encouraging the person to have faith in their success.

So how should we respond when faced with the unexpected, the frustrations, and the difficult, exasperating situations of life?

Paul wrote that no matter what happens we should respond with a Christ-like attitude.

“Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Philippians 1:27a).

Paul also said our attitude should be the same as Jesus’.

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus…” (Philippians 2:5).

And Paul encouraged us to be imitators of Christ.

“Therefore, be imitators of God, as dearly loved children” (Ephesians 5:1)

We know there will be difficulties in this life. We need to respond with a Christ-like attitude, being imitators of Christ.

God did not give us an attitude of fearfulness, but of power. Paul reminded Timothy, his young protégé of this very fact.

“For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love, and sound judgment” 2 Timothy 1:7).

So let’s cast aside these limiting beliefs that are preventing us from achieving all that God has for us and instead let us be imitators of Christ with a spirit of fearlessness and power!

Join the Conversation

As always, questions and comments are welcome. Have you ever faced a limiting belief that affected your ability to accomplish a goal or to be successful in some aspect of your life? If so did you overcome it?

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Category: Personal Development | Character

 

#200: For unto Us a Child Is Born

I love that the Christmas season kicks off right after Thanksgiving because it gives me an excuse to listen to Christmas music for a whole month. Right at the top of my preferred Christmas music list are hymns with lyrics taken from portions of scripture.

Child Jesus

One of the hymns that I learned as a young lad was “For unto Us a Child Is Born.” I didn’t know it at the time, but the music was written by George Frederick Handel in 1741, and the lyrics were taken from Isaiah 9:6:

For unto us a Child is born
Unto us a Son is given
And the government
Shall be upon His shoulder
And his name shall be called
Wonderful
Counselor
The Mighty God
The Everlasting Father
The Prince of Peace.

Digging into Isaiah 9:6 we see it is rich with meaning as it refers to the Second Advent; the second coming of Jesus Christ:

“For unto us a child is born” speaks to the humanity of the Messiah.

“Unto us a Son is given” speaks to the deity of the Messiah given to the nation of Israel.

“And the government will be upon His shoulder” refers to the Second Advent; the second coming of Jesus Christ when he will reign as the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.

“And his name shall be called” begins a list of four attributes of Messiah’s character.

“Wonderful Counselor” The word “Wonderful” is a noun, not an adjective. “Wonderful” is His name. “Counselor,” Messiah will exhibit wisdom in His government and is the ultimate counselor to mankind.

“The Mighty God” This speaks to Messiah’s omnipotence as the supreme Ruler of the universe.

“The Everlasting Father” He is the creator, eternal, and a loving Father, He confers everlasting life on those who believe in Him.

“The Prince of Peace” The Messiah will bring peace into the world.

When we understand and appreciate the depth of meaning in this one verse, it is easy to see why Handel selected it to be part of the Messiah oratorio.

Watch the video below if you would like to listen to an incredible performance of Handel’s Messiah, “For unto As a Child Is Born” conducted by Sir Colin Davis, with the London Symphony Orchestra.

Join the Conversation

As always, questions and comments are welcome. What is your favorite Christmas hymn? What does it mean to 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: Personal Development | Character

#195: Do You See Yourself in the Life of Zacchaeus?

Lessons from the Lesser Known

Have you ever read a Bible story and imagined yourself in the place of the main character? You think, “that could be me!”

Zacchaeus

Some people may see themselves as a leader like Moses, courageous like Joshua, wise like Solomon, or brave and determined like Paul. Others may see themselves more like Peter; bold and outspoken.

I wonder how many of us see ourselves like Jonah, who ran from God’s call on his life? Or like Jacob who deceived his father and brother all in an effort to get ahead?

One person most of us probably don’t identify with is a man Luke tells us about; Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector (Luke 19:1-10).

Zacchaeus is described as the chief tax collector in the city of Jericho. He was a Jew who had become rich by extorting more money in taxes from his fellow Jews than required by Rome.

He was small in stature, an outcast despised by his own people.

Despite his wealth and influence with Rome, there was something missing in his life. When he heard that Jesus was passing through town he wanted to see him. He was too short amidst the crowd following Jesus to see him, so Zacchaeus ran ahead and climbed a tree to get a better look at this man, Jesus, that he had heard so much about.

As Jesus approached the tree where Zacchaeus was, Jesus called him by name and told him to come down because he was going to stay at Zacchaeus’ house. So Zacchaeus scampered down and received Jesus joyfully.

While the crowd muttered against Jesus for staying with a sinner like Zacchaeus, Zacchaeus jumped down and immediately announced he would give half of everything he owned to the poor and pay back four times the amount of anything he had cheated out of others.

Jesus said salvation had come to the house of Zacchaeus that day. The Son of Man had come to seek and save that which was lost.

5 Lessons from the story of Zacchaeus

1) He was searching. Money and influence were not enough. Zacchaeus knew there was something missing in his life.

2) He was determined. Something in Zacchaeus drove him to set aside his pride, rush ahead of the crowd, and climb a tree just so he would have a chance to see Jesus.

3) Jesus came to him. Despite being surrounded by a crowd, Jesus came to Zacchaeus and dealt with him as an individual.

4) Jesus knew him. Jesus not only called Zacchaeus by name, but He knew the condition of his heart.

5) He responded to Jesus immediately. When Jesus called out to Zacchaeus, he jumped down immediately and responded to Jesus with rejoicing. He publicly repented of his sins against his people. He promised to give away half of his fortune and to make restitution to those he had cheated.

Zacchaeus was desperate to see Jesus, but at the same time, Jesus was on his way to meet Zacchaeus. The Lord knew Zacchaeus’ heart and he responded just as the Lord knew he would. The world may have despised or even hated Zacchaeus. But the Lord saw him through a different lens; one that saw his repentant heart and his desire to know the Lord.

Many of us are searching for the something that is missing in our lives. We work hard to accumulate wealth, power, and influence only to find that they are not enough. Then we go searching for what will fill that God-shaped hole in our lives.

Hopefully, when Jesus comes to us we will put away our pride, greet Him with rejoicing, repent of our sins, and follow him as the Great Shepherd!

The Lord knows His sheep and they recognize His voice (John 10:14).

 Join the Conversation

As always, questions and comments are welcome. Have you ever imagined yourself in the place of a Bible character? If so, who and what about that character did you identify with?

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

 

 

 

#194: Do You Know the 3 E’s of Expanded Leadership?

I had the great pleasure of attending the Global Leadership Summit hosted by Willow Creek Church again this year.

Expanded Leadership

Among the incredible speakers was Jossy Chacko, founder and president of Empart, Inc, a global church planting ministry.

Jossy’s talk entitled, “Unquestionable Ways to Expand Your Leadership Reach” was based on the Parable of the Talents recorded in Matthew 25:14-30.

As He teaches the disciples this parable, Jesus described the master who is going on a journey and called his three servants together to entrust his property to them. To one servant he gave five talents of money, to the second servant he gave two talents, and to the third servant he gave one talent.

The man who received five talents and the man who received two talents both put the money to work and doubled it. The man who received one talent was afraid of his master, so he just took the talent and buried it in the ground.

When the master returned, he held his servants accountable for their results. The man with five talents and the man with two talents who had doubled what they were given were commended by the master and invited to share his happiness.

The man with one talent who was afraid and hid the talent in the ground was reprimanded for not at least investing the talent, so what he had was taken from him since he was a worthless servant.

In God’s economy, the two men who multiplied what they were given were rewarded, while the man who just returned what he was given was not rewarded.

What talent has God entrusted to you? If God has entrusted you with leadership responsibility, how you are multiplying and expanding your leadership?

The 3E’s of Expanded Leadership

1) Enlarge Your Vision

  • One man with a small vision played it safe by burying his talent in the ground. If your vision is only to keep what you have, you’ll never see the opportunities all around you.
  • Your vision is directly related to your view of God. If you have a small vision, you have a small view of God. If you have a large vision, you have a large view of God.

2) Empower Your People

  • The master gave the money to the three servants and left! He went on his journey without giving specific instructions of what each person was to do—he left that decision to them individually.
  • People’s character is built through being held accountable for their actions. People often fail for lack of character.

3) Embrace Risk

  • See risk as a friend. The third servant said, “I was afraid,” but Paul, writing to Timothy said, “God has not given us a spirit of fear” (2 Timothy 1:7).
  • Don’t let the fear of losing what you have, keep you from getting what God has for you.

Perfection is Not Required or Expected

When Jesus selected the apostles, He knew they would all be weak and abandon Him in His darkest hour. He knew Peter would deny Him three times. He knew Judas would betray Him.

Jesus didn’t expect the apostles to be perfect. In fact, knew they weren’t! He selected them anyway. What He expected was they would come back to Him in faith to fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20).

Jesus doesn’t expect us to be perfect either. In fact, He knows we’re not but He has called us anyway. The question is, will you be a servant who answers the call and multiplies the talents you have received?

Join the Conversation

As always, questions and comments are welcome. Has God entrusted you with the responsibility of being a leader? If so, how are you multiplying and expanding that talent to others for the benefit of the Kingdom?

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

 

#181: Pressure, Pleasure, Power, Pride, and Priorities Lead to Failure

Did you know that companies who succeed in hiring ethical employees and are themselves ethical are more successful than those who do not?

Priorities

According to the Executive Leadership Foundation, $30,000 invested in the Dow Jones Industrial Average 30 years ago would be worth $134,000. Not bad, but if you invested the same $30,000 in the top 15 ethically responsible companies in their study, that $30,000 investment would be worth over $1,000,000. That’s a pretty big advantage for the socially responsible company over the long haul!

Based on the growth potential alone it is not surprising most companies say they want to hire employees who exhibit strong ethical behavior.

Sadly, when push comes to shove, many employees fall off the ethical wagon.

In his book, There’s No Such Thing as Business Ethics, author John Maxwell relates five factors that most often cause someone to cross ethical boundaries:

1) Pressure

How many companies have imploded like Enron because of pressure to meet Wall Street expectations? Sales managers pressure sales reps to meet a quota so the rep cuts corners or makes unsubstantiated claims to make a sale. Contractors pressure suppliers for lower prices to win bids and end up with inferior materials. Pressure to make a number or do a deal exists in all kinds of companies from the largest of the Fortune 500 to the neighborhood entrepreneur.

James admonished believers to stand firmly against pressure and not give in, Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12).

2) Pleasure

The desire to attain a certain lifestyle; a bigger house, nicer cars, and more toys is a common cause of ethical breaches. I’ve personally had to deal with sales reps that mishandled company funds hoping to increase sales, earn a promotion and the bigger salary, for the sole purpose of having “more.”

Paul warned that those who love pleasure do not love God, “treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (2 Timothy 3:4).

3) Power

Lord Acton was right when he said, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  Power is addictive. A good person achieves a position of responsibility and the power that goes with the position. Pretty soon they exercise their power to maintain their position rather than to serve others. Eventually, they will use their power to abuse and even crush those who stand against them. Power is a seductive mistress that ends in destruction.

Solomon noted, “The wise prevail through great power, and those who have knowledge muster their strength” (Proverbs 24:5).

4) Pride

There is nothing wrong with working hard to achieve a goal and being proud when the goal is accomplished. But when pride leads to an exaggerated sense of self-worth it becomes destructive. Pride causes you to put someone else down to build yourself up. Pride causes people to refuse to admit their mistakes and instead, blame others for their shortfalls.

Solomon, writing in Proverbs said, “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom” (Proverbs 11:2).

5) Priorities

Do you have a moral compass that guides your path? Those that do not have a predetermined set of moral guidelines or established principles are especially susceptible to ethical lapses. Establishing priorities for your life informed by moral principles provides a protective hedge from ethical lapses.

Paul, writing to the Romans, admonished them to keep their focus on God, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2).

Pressure, pleasure, power, and pride are not bad in and of themselves. It is when there is too much pressure, too great a focus on pleasure, a reliance on power, or a prideful attitude that ethical lapses occur in otherwise ethical people. That’s precisely why having solid priorities based on Godly values are so important.

Join the Conversation

As always, questions and comments are welcome. Have you worked with someone who crossed ethical lines? If so, was it because of too much pressure, pleasure, power, pride, or bad priorities?

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

 

#176: Can We Finally All Be One in Christ Jesus?

On July 4, 1776, 240 years ago, the United States Second Continental Congress declared independence from Great Britain. Independence. Freedom. The right to govern oneself; to be free from the tyranny of the king.

United Christ Independence

In their Declaration of Independence, Congress expressed belief in the equality of all men as deriving from their Creator:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Recently, a legislator from the state of Louisiana labeled the Declaration of Independence racist because when it was written only Caucasians were free (not true, but she’s a politician). What she may not have remembered from her civics class was slavery was brought to America by the British and French.

It was the framers of our Declaration who originally hoped to outlaw it.

Benjamin Franklin wrote in the original draft of the Declaration a very specific indictment against the King of England regarding slavery. It was the last of 27 complaints listed in the Declaration and was the longest and harshest by far:

He has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating & carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither.  This piratical warfare, the opprobrium of infidel powers, is the warfare of the Christian King of Great Britain.  Determined to keep open a market where Men should be bought & sold, he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or restrain this execrable commerce.  And that this assemblage of horrors might want no fact of distinguished die, he is now exciting those very people to rise in arms among us, and to purchase that liberty of which he has deprived them, by murdering the people on whom he has obtruded them: thus paying off former crimes committed again the Liberties of one people, with crimes which he urges them to commit against the lives of another.

Strong words indeed!

Sadly, this condemnation of slavery was removed from the final version of the Declaration and replaced with a simpler and more ambiguous complaint that the king had “incited domestic insurrections among us.”

Slavery prevailed in much of the country for another 100 years until the groundswell against it reached a boiling point and the civil war was fought to end slavery in the United States once and for all. In the north, 1.5 million soldiers fought to maintain the Union and end slavery. My paternal great-great-grandfather was one of them.

Unfortunately, ending the legality of slavery did not automatically change people’s beliefs. We are 150 years beyond the civil war and we still have a very long way to go to live up to the promise of our Declaration that all men are created equal.

We have an even further road to travel to realize God’s ideal as expressed by Paul:

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).

Honestly, it depresses me when I think about how divided we are in America as a people of God. I get even more depressed when I consider society at large. It seems there is more distrust, angst, and vitriol than ever. Instead of moving toward God’s ideal we seem to be moving away.

It’s not hard to imagine that if we, as Americans, were closer to God we would have less division and strife.

As much as I am saddened by the state of affairs in America, I was downright disgusted when I saw a report released just recently that 46 million men, women, and children are living in slavery somewhere in the world (Global Slavery Index Report 2016).

Over 60% of those living in slavery around the world are in just six countries: India, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Uzbekistan, and North Korea.

It’s also not hard to imagine that if the people in countries where human misery and abuse is commonplace were to experience Christ in a meaningful way, hearts would change. Lives would change.

Jesus said, “If you abide in my word…you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32).

The truth of God’s Word will set all mankind free. It will unite all mankind as one in Christ.

As Christians, we are all called to ministry, to serve the Lord. As leaders, we have a responsibility to use our gifts and talents in service to the Kingdom.

My challenge to you as we celebrate our Independence Day here in America is to consider, “What can I do to help unite the world in the family of God such that we will all be one in Christ Jesus?”

Join the Conversation

As always, questions and comments are welcome. Do you think Christians should be engaged in global political issues? Why, or why not?

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#169: Ambition, Avarice and Lot’s Lost Life in the World

Lessons from the Lesser Known

Benjamin Franklin, speaking in 1787 before the Continental Congress said there were two passions which had the most powerful influence over men; ambition and avarice.

Ambition Avarice Lot

“[T]here are two passions which have a powerful influence in the affairs of men. These are ambition and avarice—the love of power and the love of money. Separately, each of these has great force in prompting men to action; but, when united in view of the same object, they have, in many minds, the most violent effects. Place before the eyes of such men a post of honor, that shall, at the same time, be a place of profit, and they will move heaven and earth to obtain it.”

Franklin was speaking from experience with the British government in which men spent their lives in pursuit of power and money.

Mankind has been struggling with the twin demons of the love of power and the love of money throughout our history. Beginning in Genesis 13 we see what happened to Abraham’s nephew, Lot, who spent much of his life in the pursuit of power and money and in the end, lost it all. Lot’s story provides lessons for all of us today.

The Seeds of Ambition and Avarice

Abraham was a man of God. Lot was his nephew. Abraham had become a wealthy, powerful man because he obeyed God and was blessed by God. Lot, who travelled with his uncle, had also become wealthy.

I’m guessing here, but I suspect Lot envied his uncle’s position of power and his relationship with God.

When they arrived in the land of Canaan, Lot’s people argued with Abraham’s people over the care of their herds. To avoid quarreling between the families, Abraham suggested they separate and gave his nephew first choice over the land. Rather than deferring to his uncle, Lot looked at the land and selfishly selected the best portion of the Jordan Valley for himself.

Lot moved his herds and settled in the city of Sodom, despite the fact that Sodom was well known for their sins against God.

Sodom was attacked by neighboring kings and Lot and all his possessions were carried off. When Abraham heard about it, he rallied his men and rescued Lot and all of his possessions. Rather than moving, Lot settled right back where he had been in Sodom.

The sins of Sodom and Gomorrah were so evil the Lord decided to bring judgement upon them. God sent two angels to Sodom who met Lot sitting in a place of honor at the city gates. Lot invited the angels to stay with him and the angels warned Lot of God’s plan to destroy the city the next day.

Lot went through the city to warn his sons-in-law and daughters of the impending judgement of God, but the sons-in-law did not believe him. The next day the angels escorted Lot, his wife, and his two daughters out of the city. When they were away from the city, God reigned down judgement upon Sodom and Gomorrah destroying them both.

Lot escaped the city with the clothes on his back and lost everything else. His wife was dead. His daughter’s husbands died in the city. All the wealth and all the power were gone in the span of a single day. He lived out his days hiding in a cave in the mountains.

Lessons for Us

Lot’s slide into a worldly life driven by ambition and avarice apart from God occurred over time:

  1. Lot separated himself from God. Lot allowed strife to separate him from his godly uncle, Abraham. Rather than seeking God’s wisdom or deferring to his uncle, Lot separated himself from the one godly influence in his life.
  2. Lot allowed selfish desires to control his choices. Lot looked around and selfishly chose the best land for himself. He wanted more wealth for himself and he needed the best land to obtain it.
  3. Lot rejected his second chance. Even after Lot was taken captive and nearly lost everything, only to be rescued by his uncle, he stubbornly resumed his quest for power and wealth by settling back in Sodom.
  4. Lot chose to live surrounded by sin. Lot knowingly chose to live in a sinful city because it allowed him a place of honor at the city gates. He allowed his daughters to marry men who did not know or believe in God.
  5. Lot never turned to God. Despite the warnings of the judgement of God from the angels, Lot never turned to God to repent of his actions.

On the plus side,

  1. Lot believed the angels. He tried to convince his son-in-law of the impending judgement, but they didn’t believe him.
  2. Lot obeyed the angels. When the angels said it was time to go or face God’s wrath, Lot hesitated but followed the angels out of the city.

Mr. Franklin was right wasn’t he? Ambition and avarice, the love of power and money, cause us to make some really bad decisions.

It is so easy to allow the quest for power and money to separate us from God. We make selfish decisions. We even ignore warnings from God and reject our second chances thinking we are on the path to power and money we so richly deserve. We even put ourselves in sinful situations and justify what we are doing. Sadly, and all too often, we fail to see the signs of God’s impending judgement until it is too late. We lose it all. All the worldly wealth and power is gone in the blink of an eye.

Don’t miss this one point. When Lot hesitated in leaving Sodom, God held back the destruction of Sodom because he cared for Lot. Despite all of Lot’s poor decisions over a period of years, God still cared so much for him that he waited for Lot to get away safely.

Yes, Lot suffered the loss of all the worldly possessions, his power, and prestige, but he never stopped being a child of God. Neither do we!

Join the Conversation

As always, questions and comments are welcome. Do you know men or women like Lot, whose love of power and money caused them to make poor decisions? What happened in their lives as a result?

 

Category: Personal Development | Character

 

#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