#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

 

 

 

#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

 

#156: Presidents, Leadership, and God

Here in the United States, we celebrate President’s Day the third Monday of February. The origins of the holiday trace back to 1879 when congress enacted a federal holiday in honor of our first president, George Washington.

Presidents, Leadership, and God

The holiday honoring Washington remained for nearly 100 years until 1968 when the idea of President’s Day was established in an attempt to honor all our presidents.

I thought it would be informative to take a look back in history to see what some of our early presidents had to say about leadership and God.

George Washington—1st President

Washington said the virtue he most desired was to be known as an honest man,

“I hope I shall possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an honest man.”

Regarding the importance of religious principle, Washington said,

“Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”

Washington said the standard of a leader should be that he is as wise and honest as possible and the rest is in God’s hands,

“Let us raise a standard to which the wise and honest can repair; the rest is in the hands of God.”

John Adams—2nd President

Adams believed independence of the nation derived from the principles of Christianity. He said,

“The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity. I will avow that I then believed, and now believe, that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God.”

Adams was especially concerned that moral men of character assume positions of importance in society. He said,

“Because power corrupts, society’s demands for moral authority and character increase as the importance of the position increases.”

Adams believed our form of government would only be sufficient to govern a moral and religious people. He said,

“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

Thomas Jefferson—3rd President

Jefferson recognized God’s justice falls on all nations when he said,

“I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever.”

Jefferson recognized the difference between success and failure was often a matter of the leader’s attitude. He said,

“Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.”

Jefferson believed a leader is someone who is ready to take action and that those actions define the leader. He said,

“Do you want to know who you are? Don’t ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you.”

John Quincy Adams—6th President

Adams understood the power of a leader to inspire the people to be all they can be. He said,

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”

Standing on principle, even if you stand alone, is important. Adams said,

“Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost.”

According to Adams, principles of Christianity cannot be separated from the principles of civil government. He said,

“The highest glory of the American Revolution was this: it connected in one indissoluble bond the principles of civil government with the principles of Christianity.”

Andrew Jackson—7th President

Jackson believed a man who shirks is duty has little value to his country. He said,

“The brave man inattentive to his duty, is worth little more to his country than the coward who deserts in the hour of danger.”

Jackson was a man who would think about an issue, and then act. He said,

“Take time to deliberate; but when the time for action arrives, stop thinking and go in.”

Jackson’s faith grew later in his life. He believed the Bible was an important foundation of the new republic. He said,

“The Bible is the rock on which this Republic rests.”

Close to his death, Jackson made clear his faith in our Lord and savior. He said,

“Sir, I am in the hands of a merciful God. I have full confidence in his goodness and mercy…. The Bible is true… Upon that sacred volume, I rest my hope for eternal salvation, through the merits and blood of our blessed Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.”

Abraham Lincoln—22nd President

Lincoln was a man used to confronting trials and taking responsibility as the leader. He said,

“You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.”

Lincoln quoted scripture often in his speeches. In this speech, he expressed his trust in God and asked the people to continue to pray for him. He said,

“Trusting in Him, who can go with me, and remain with you and be everywhere for good, let us confidently hope that all will yet be well. To His care commending you, as I hope in your prayers you will commend me.”

Lincoln believed God had favored this land and that continued reliance on God would deliver the country from the civil war.

“Intelligence, patriotism, Christianity, and a firm reliance on Him, who has never yet forsaken this favored land, are still competent to adjust, in the best way, all our present difficulty.”

 

Reviewing these few quotes I am struck by the depth of their thought. These presidents, as many that followed them, established themselves as leaders through the adversity and trials of war.

While their theology differed, it is plain to see that belief in God shaped their lives and their leadership of this country.

They did not separate their Christian values from their lives as leaders. In fact, they often proudly and publically proclaimed their faith as they led.

It is, to me, a shame that many of today’s leaders, perhaps even a majority, do not speak proudly and consistently of their faith and reliance on God.

As Christians who wear the mantle of leadership, it is incumbent upon us to let our light shine before men so that others will see it and glorify our Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16).

Join the Conversation

As always questions and comments are welcome. Do you think Christian men and women should aspire to leadership in society?

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Category: Personal Development | Character

#143: The Single Most Powerful Way to End Your Day—Guaranteed!

If you are anything like me when the day is done you turn off the computers and televisions, put the cellphone and the I-Pad on their chargers and head off to bed to get some much needed rest. But wait!

Powerful, Prayer, Day

Before you close your eyes and drift off to never, never land I want you to do one more thing. It will only take a few minutes and it is without a doubt the most powerful way to end your day and set up tomorrow for success. Guaranteed!

If you read last week’s blog I said the most powerful way to start your day was to pray the Prayers of Intentions before your feet hit the floor.

Guess what this week’s recommendation is?! That’s right, pray. But this time I want you to pray through what is called the Prayer of Examination at the end of your day.

Over 400 years ago St Ignatius Loyola began the practice at the end of every day of praying through the day.

Praying the Prayer of Examination

There is no single “best” or “right” way to review your day in prayer. What is most important is that you are honest with the Lord and open to the leading of the Holy Spirit.

  • Come into God’s presence. Often our days are a confusing jumble of activities. Ask God to calm your heart, and open your mind to hear what the Holy Spirit has for you.
  • Give thanks. Review the events of the day with an attitude of gratitude. Every day is a gift from God. Give thanks to God that He is always with you!
  • Be sensitive to the emotions you felt throughout the day. As you review the events of the day consider what emotions you experienced. Were you angry, sad, joyful, bored, or energized? What situations contributed to these emotions?
  • Hone in on one event. Ask the Holy Spirit to bring to mind a single event during the day, whether it was positive or negative, and prayerfully consider if there is something you could have done better, a sin you need to confess, or someone you need to minister to.
  • Look toward tomorrow. As you consider what tomorrow might bring, ask God to give you His wisdom, His understanding, His strength, and His power!

Like the Prayer of Intentions if you’ll commit to praying through the Prayer of Examinations every day for 30 days with an open and honest heart I guarantee you’ll feel closer to the Lord, and wake up feeling more refreshed than ever before!

Join the Conversation

As always questions and comments are welcome. Have you engaged in some form of a prayer of examination at some point during your life? How did it make you feel? Did it make a difference in your life?

 

Category: Personal Development | Character

#142: The Single Most Powerful Way to Start Your Day–Guaranteed

I am a firm believer that how you start your day has a great deal to do with how your day will go.

Powerful Start to Day

When you wake up do you roll-over and scream into your pillow, “Good God, its morning!” as you anticipate the trials and tribulations of the day?

Or do you wake up with a smile saying to yourself, “Good God, its morning!” as you anticipate the joys of the day God has for you?

I’ll be the first to admit that for much of my life, especially those years spent in the corporate world, I was waking up screaming into my pillow.

Then I discovered that if spent a few minutes in prayer before my feet hit the floor my day got off to a better start. The number of days when I woke up screaming into my pillow as I greeted the dawn began to decrease.

When I was in seminary a professor taught me how to take my morning prayer ritual to new heights in a way that set up my day to be the best it could be.

Creating a Powerful Start to Your Day

Dr. John Coe, Director of the Department of Spiritual Formation at Biola University, taught us what he calls the Prayer of Intentions. The Prayer of Intentions takes only a few minutes, but I guarantee when done every morning it will set you up for a great day:

  1. Prayer of Presenting Oneself as a Sacrifice (Rom. 12:1-2): the spiritual discipline of daily presenting oneself to God as a living sacrifice, open to Him and His will in all things.

Prayer of Intention: “Lord, I am here, I present myself and my will to you as my act of worship. Here I am.”

  1. Prayer of Recollection (Phil. 3:7-9): the spiritual discipline of reminding the self of its true identity in Christ (full pardon, full acceptance) and “Christ in me” (that I am not alone).

Prayer of Intention: “God, whatever I do today, I want to do this in you. I don’t want to do this alone, in my own power or as a way to hide and cover. I don’t want to find my identity in anything but Christ. I am in Christ, I am the beloved, and that is my true identity.” (Confess any idolatry)

  1. Prayer of Honesty (Ps. 15:1-2, Ps. 139:23-24): the spiritual discipline whereby we open to God and ourselves in what is truly going on in our heart in order for truth-telling to take place in our relationships and life in general.

Prayer of Intention: “Lord, what is going on in my heart right now with You, with others, with my life, my situations? Search me, O God, and know my heart. Open my heart to you today in truth, lest I deceive myself.” (Confess any idolatry)

  1. Prayer of Discernment (Eccles. 7:13-14, Phil. 2:12-13): the spiritual discipline whereby we learn to watch what the Spirit is doing in us and not merely our work, to “consider the work of God,” what His will is in all things versus ours or the devil’s so that we can better cooperate with the Spirit. Here we seek wisdom on how to respond to His work that is ongoing within us.

Prayer of Intention: “Lord, what are you doing and what is it that you want me to become and do if I am to do your will?”

Establish Your Daily Routine

I guarantee you will begin your days feeling blessed and joyful if you will spend a few minutes saying Good Morning to God before your feet hit the floor.

So tomorrow when you wake up, spend a few minutes to pray through each of the four Prayers of Intention.

Do it every morning for the next 30 days, until it becomes part of your routine. If you do, I bet you’ll stop waking up screaming into your pillow.

I edited Dr. Coe’s Prayer of Intention for length. If you would like to read his complete piece click here.

Join the Conversation

As always questions and comments are welcome. Do you have a morning prayer routine? How does it impact how you feel throughout the day?

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Category: Personal Development | Character

 

#140: Is character formed in the crucible of failure?

Is character formed in the crucible of failure? Can we develop our ability to lead by considering how we fail?

Crucible Character

These are two very important yet related questions executives need to answer if they expect to build strong leaders over the long-haul.

The answer to the first question, is character formed in the crucible of failure, is a resounding yes!

Let’s look at two Biblical examples, Judas and Simon-Peter.

Judas

We don’t know a whole lot about Judas from the scripture except that he was one of Jesus’ disciples, he seemed to be pretty concerned with the way their finances were handled, and of course he betrayed Jesus into the hands of the chief priests and elders for 30 pieces of silver (Matthew 26).

After Jesus was condemned to death Judas had second thoughts about betraying Jesus and attempted to return the money to the chief priests and elders. They refused. Judas realized he had sinned in betraying Jesus, and went out and hanged himself (Matthew 27).

Simon-Peter

After their Passover supper Jesus and the disciples went out to the Mount of Olives. Jesus told them they would deny him that very night and would be scattered. Peter quickly said even if all the rest of these weak-kneed disciples fall away, I will not deny you! Peter went on to declare even if he had to die with Jesus he would never deny him. But Jesus said this very night Peter would deny Jesus three times before the rooster crows (Matthew 26).

The temple guards arrested Jesus and brought him at night to the religious leaders who conducted a mock trial and convicted Jesus of blasphemy (saying He was the Son of God) and sentenced him to death. While this was going on Peter was in the courtyard of the high priest and a girl asked him if he was with Jesus and he said he was not. Another servant girl asked him again if he was with Jesus and Peter took an oath saying he was not with Jesus. Finally bystanders accused him of being with Jesus and Jesus swore a curse upon himself saying he was not. Three denials of Jesus, and then the rooster crowed. Peter realized what he had done and wept bitterly.

Judas vs. Simon-Peter

Judas and Simon Peter both failed Jesus miserably. In fact their failures were pretty similar. Judas betrayed Jesus for money. Peter betrayed Jesus to save himself. But it’s their response to their failures that tells us about their character.

Judas was remorseful, but committed suicide rather than face Jesus and the disciples again.

Simon-Peter wept bitterly, repented of his failure, and was eventually restored to Jesus. He learned from his mistake and took responsibility for it. Peter went on to be a great leader in the Church.

Application for Us

I make mistakes. You make mistakes.

Some of my mistakes are little things, others rise to the level of failure. The key in developing as leaders is in how we respond when we fail. Do we quit, or do we take responsibility for our failure, learn from it, and become an even better leader than we were before?

Back to my second question, can we develop our ability to lead by considering how we fail? Again, I think the answer is, if we respond like Peter we certainly can!

Join the Conversation

As always questions and comments are welcome. What do you think? Can you measure the character of a leader by how they respond to failure?

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Category: Personal Development | Character

 

#126: The Single Most Important Thing You Need To Know About Potential Employees

I was only a few months into my first management assignment when I was teamed up with one of P&G’s recruiting managers for training on how to interview and hire prospective employees.

Mountain Character

I remember it like it was yesterday (or maybe like the day before yesterday). It was a beautiful day in Seattle, and we were interviewing graduates from the University of Washington for positions as sales representatives.

I listened intently as the recruiter breezed through the interview questions with a couple of prospects, asking probing questions along the way to determine if they were candidates for a second interview.

Suddenly it was my turn, and the full weight of making a decision hit me. In a few minutes I had to assess someone’s fit for a career in sales. To accept someone who was not a good fit would cost the company a ton of money and time. Pass up someone truly talented and the company would miss out on their potential contributions.

The interview questions explored what the candidates had done, their problem solving ability, and their ability to influence others. These were all important skills for a prospective salesperson.

What I realize now is that these interview questions missed the most important aspect of a person’s qualifications to work for the company; their character!

Over the course of my career I worked with several managers who had great skills sets; they were achievers, they were problem solvers, and they had the ability to influence others, but they were less than desirable as leaders because of issues with their character.

Character is important because character drives behavior, but what character traits are important in business?

What Character Traits Are Important?

King David had some lapses in character (the whole Bathsheba incident comes to mind). But in Psalm 15 David wondered what kind of person might be permitted to live with God, because he wanted to be that kind of person.

His conclusions provide us with excellent guidelines for the kind of Godly character traits that will serve us well in business:

1) A person of character speaks the truth

A person of character has truth deep in their hearts, they do not slander, nor do they discredit others.

…Who speaks the truth from his heart and has no slander on his tongue, who does his neighbor no wrong and casts no slur on his fellowman, (Psalm 15:2-3)

2) A person of character despises the morally wicked

A person of character despises the morally wicked, offensive people, but has great respect for those who seek the Lord.

…Who despises a vile man but honors those who fear the LORD (Psalm 15:4)

3) A person of character keep his word

A person of character keeps his word even when it is inconvenient.

…Who keeps his oath even when it hurts (Psalm 15:4)

4) A person of character does not take advantage of others

A person of character does not take advantage of someone in their time of need.

…Who lends his money without usury (Psalm 15:5)

5) A person of character cannot be bribed

A person of character champions the cause of the innocent they do not take bribes against them.

…[Who] does not accept a bribe against the innocent. (Psalm 15:5)

 

David believed that a person who demonstrated these character traits in their lives would be solid, not one who would be led astray, but remain true to their core beliefs.

He who does these things will never be shaken. Psalm 15:5 (NIV)

 

Now really, think about it. What kind of people do you want to surround yourself with in your organization? Certainly not liars, people who are morally deficient, someone who does not keep their word, someone who takes advantage of others, and surely you don’t want someone who can be bribed.

You want someone with character. Someone who cannot be shaken!

The challenge obviously is finding these kinds of people. The usual interview questions don’t get at issues of character so you’ll have to do your best to assess character another way, which is why my mantra now is “hire slow, and fire fast.”

Join the Conversation

As always questions and comments are welcome. Have you been ‘stung’ by someone with character deficiencies in your workplace? How did you deal with it?

 

Category: Personal Development | Character

#115: 12 Ways to Create and Enjoy Success in the Workplace

It’s nice to be successful. We want to be successful. We want to be married to successful spouses. We want our children to be successful.

Success Workplace

I’ve never met a teenager who said, “Yeah, 15 years from now I see myself huddled under a freeway overpass in worn-out clothes, freezing in the winter rain, using drugs, and waiting for the soup kitchen to open.”

Read the newspaper or watch TV news and you’ll hear about people who seem to be successful. They have money, power, and prestige yet they’re in the throes of depression being admitted to drug rehab centers or worse, being carried to their final resting place, dead at their own hands.

If people with money, power, and prestige aren’t successful then who is? So why is it that so many people who have achieved worldly success seem to be the least satisfied? Solomon was the richest man on earth. He built not just buildings but whole cities. He possessed great wisdom. World leaders came and fell at his feet marveling at his great wealth and wisdom. To the world, he surely seemed successful, yet he said, “when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun” (Eccl. 2:11).

What’s missing in the equation if wealth, favor, and eminence don’t guarantee happiness, joy, or even contentment? Jesus himself taught the disciples, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19). He went on to say, “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:20-21).

The reason we work is more important than the work itself. If we work for earthly treasure we receive an earthly reward. This doesn’t mean we aren’t to work hard, but that we should not work simply for the sake of amassing things.

Real success comes from a combination of planning, hard work, and a close relationship to God. Here are twelve steps to help you become successful in a way that will also provide lasting satisfaction.

Steps to Success

  1. Begin and end every workday with God in your heart. Remember that whatever great things you accomplish on earth it is because He has gifted you.
  2. Focus on a vision. Success begins in the mind. Develop a vision for your life. Spend some time figuring out what special skills you possess. Those special skills can be used by God to accomplish great things for Him.
  3. Define your purpose or mission. Once your vision is established you need to develop a framework which will guide you as you achieve your vision. Your purpose statement should include a set of operating principles and values that help define you as an individual.
  4. Set and measure your own goals. Once you have established a personal vision and constructed a framework of guiding values in a mission statement you need to set goals. Establish long-term goals that will lead to the accomplishment of your vision. Set short-term goals that will accomplish your long-term goals.
  5. Think constructively. No great accomplishment in life comes easily. There will be times that you think the light at the other end of the tunnel is just another train approaching.
  6. Keep the vision in mind. Every day you make choices about what you will do. Those choices determine whether you will move closer to achieving your vision.
  7. Reward and discipline yourself. Some people reward themselves whenever they do something well (cheerleader types). Others punish themselves whenever they do the least little thing wrong (perfectionist types). Strive to create balance in your life; reward yourself when you accomplish something meaningful and hold yourself accountable for missing important goals.
  8. Create energy for success by staying physically fit. Fitness creates energy reserves to combat the effects of long work days and stress. Also, God created us to rest one day in seven and to take vacations from work to rest our minds and our bodies.
  9. Develop, protect, and maintain your integrity. Personal integrity is the foundation upon which others base their trust in you. Maintain your integrity and people will trust you first with small things and then with big things. It takes years to build a reputation of integrity but only seconds to lose it.
  10. Learn from adversity and failure. As busy as we all are we just don’t have time to make all the mistakes ourselves, and we certainly don’t have time to make the same mistakes over and over again.
  11. Motivate yourself. The world is full of people who have failed and are ready to provide you with plenty of reasons why what you want to do can’t be done. Learn not to listen to such naysayers and to motivate yourself.
  12. Develop your skill set. For every second that passes man’s knowledge increases. You need to set out on a formal program to develop your skills as well as prepare yourself for future skill needs. If you don’t in a few years you’ll be as useful as a mimeograph machine in a world of high-speed internet.

One Final Thought about Success

There are lots of ways to lose in business and in life. There are lots of ways to win and not feel satisfied. True success comes from fulfilling God’s plan for your life. What are you waiting for? Get started today!

Bonus Whitepaper

This month’s bonus whitepaper entitled “12 Ways to Create and Enjoy Success in the Workplace” contains a broader discussion of each of the twelve ways to create success mentioned in this blog, plus 10 Rules for Losing by the president of Coca-Cola. You may download this month’s bonus whitepaper as a pdf here:

12 Ways to Create and Enjoy Success in the Workplace

Join the Conversation

As always questions and comments are welcome. Have you ever been this kind of leader? In what way? Have you worked for this kind of leader?  How did you respond? What was the result?

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