Sometimes it’s not about you

At a church where I once served I was loved and hailed as the minister who “looked like Superman and preached like Billy Graham.”  But when serving another church I was told by someone in authority that no one liked me and I was a terrible preacher.

At another time I served in a business leadership position where I was generally reviled and dismissed as a fraud by the people I served. Yet following that experience in an almost identical position in another company I was treated with great respect and appreciation for my contributions.

On a personal level, I was once told by someone that they couldn’t stand to be around me. And yet a close friend told me recently that I should teach a class on friendship because of the true friendship I’ve shown him over the years.

The truth is, I’ve been pretty much the same person through all these experiences. Not as great as some people have believed, not as bad as others have thought. As I pondered these things earlier today it occurred to me that the way people treat other people often says more about them than the person receiving the treatment.

That was certainly true of Jesus. He came as the embodiment of love and grace. He healed the sick, raised the dead, and comforted the hurting. Many loved him in return. Yet the Scripture also says he was “despised and rejected by men.”

So if you’re going through a season of abuse when people are treating you badly or saying hurtful things to you or about you, don’t rush to take it too seriously. Sometimes it’s not about you.

Unhireable and unfireable

A colleague recently said that the goal of an entrepreneur should be to make
so much money that they become unhireable. In other words, they shouldFIRED become so successful that no company could afford to hire them. It then occurred to me that a successful entrepreneur is also unfireable. There is no boss to fire them since they report only to themselves. And because they maintain a daily habit of proactive lead generation, even if a client should fire them, that client is easily replaced.

Of course, the ultimate test of validity for any business idea or concept is how it stands up to Scriptural scrutiny. What does the Bible have to say about the virtue of being unhireable and unfireable? Colossians 3:23 says, Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men…it is the Lord Christ you are serving.

This verse acknowledges that whether we work as an entrepreneur or an employee we are all working for men in the sense that clients and bosses are all human beings. But then the verse changes perspective and challenges us to consider a higher calling.

When we work as working for the Lord our focus is not on pleasing people but on pleasing God. Stated another way, we’re not concerned with being hired, fired or promoted, but on giving our very best.  And when we do that consistently we are certain to please both God and people.

So the Scripture doesn’t speak to our unhireable/unfireable question directly, but it does provide it’s own helpful spin on the issue:

  • We should be unhireable in the sense that regardless of who signs our paychecks we are working for the Lord.
  • We should be unfireable in the sense that God’s employment contract with us is eternal. We serve him with all our heart now, and that qualifies us for even greater service in the life to come.

Procrastinate quitting

Winston Churchill said it, Never give up!

Lance Armstrong agrees, Pain is temporary. Quitting lasts forever.

Michael Jordan agrees, If you quit ONCE it becomes a habit. Never quit!

Even the Scripture urges us not to quit when engaged in a worthy cause, 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.

All that is good in life is attained and maintained by consistent effort and sacrifice. That’s why the temptation to quit is always with us. If that seems overwhelming keep in mind that you can always quit, so there’s no need to do it today!

When the devil comes knocking

The devil is a master of timing.

He doesn’t typically come with temptations when we’re focused, productive, and surrounded by family and friends. As when he tempted Jesus in the desert, he comes knocking when we’re lonely, hungry and exhausted. That’s when we’re vulnerable.

The good news is that Jesus successfully resisted the devil through the power of the Word of God.

But that wasn’t the end of the story. Luke 4:13 says, When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time. Like the Terminator, he will be back.

What’s a Jesus-follower to do?

First, stay out of the physical spaces and emotional places where you’re most likely to be tempted. Stay purposeful in every aspect of life. Pursue health. Walk in forgiveness. Be accountable to someone who cares about you. Second, since some temptation will come regardless of how much we avoid it, we must have a deep reservoir of God’s truth in us to recognize and respond to the devil’s lies.

As the old-timers used to say, The devil knocked. The Word answered. No one was there.


More than market share

Along with a number of colleagues I’ve been spending some time articulating
my personal and business Mission, Vision, Values and Beliefs. While reading the Beatitudes in Matthew 5 it occurred to me that in those words Jesus is communicating his values.

  • When he says “Blessed are the meek,” he is valuing humility.
  • When he says, “Blessed are the pure in heart,” he is valuing holiness.
  • And when he says, “Blessed are the merciful,” he is valuing mercy.

Those three words — humility, holiness, and mercy — really sum up all the values expressed in the Beatitudes. Interestingly, I’ve not seen any of them show up in the Values statement of a Fortune 500 company or a local business. They don’t seem to be kind of things that drive profits and market share.

Yet, we have it on the word of Jesus that those who live by his values are blessed. That may mean profits and market share.

Or perhaps something far more valuable.

The essence of integrity

When I first began running in 5k and 10k races a friend offered helpful
advice regarding the most  appropriate running shoes. He talked about things like pronation, arch support, heel strike, and all kinds of technical issues I had never heard of. He spoke knowledgably about all the major brands and which would be most appropriate for my size, weight, and running style.

Then one day I asked him what running shoes he preferred. I was shocked by his response. He told me he wasn’t a runner. He hated running and never did it.

After that conversation I never again asked him for running advice. Never mind that he might actually be right about what he said, it just didn’t feel right to me to be taking advice from a guy who didn’t take his own advice.

After all, practicing what you preach is the essence of integrity.

A positive example: In Matthew 5 Jesus says that those who practice and teach his commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. Then in Acts 1 we’re told that Jesus practiced the commands he taught.

I could take advice from a guy like that.


Concealed carry

I heard a concealed carry handgun expert say that when you’re carrying a firearm you need to be as meek and gentle as a dove. Don’t get into arguments, reject road rage, and avoid any form of confrontation like the plague.

His point was that when you are carrying a lethal weapon you have a moral obligation to avoid any situation that would require you to use it.

That’s a wise caution for those of us who carry an even deadlier weapon — our tongue. The book of James calls the tongue “a restless evil, a deadly poison.” Through gossip and malicious talk we have the ability to crush hopes and destroy lives.

Perhaps that’s why the Bible everywhere encourages us to adopt a meek and humble attitude. As Micah 6:8 says, “What does the Lord require of you? To do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”


Cheeseburger in paradise

Pop culture portrays heaven much like a Huggies commercial: babies in diapers
floating on clouds while playing harps.

No wonder no one’s in too much of a hurry to get there.

The Bible paints a bit of a different picture. No harps, no clouds, no diapers. But lots of food, music, and good times with old friends. Of course, heaven is more than just a girl’s night out at Joe’s Crab Shack. A lot more. It starts with judgment and then moves on to worship, wonder, and new assignments in service to God.

But from the previews of heaven we read about in the Gospels and the book of Revelation, it’s not too far-fetched to think we really might be able to enjoy a cheeseburger in paradise. Would you like fries with that?


Don’t delay your blessing

8029634014_a4a48282d9_z[1]In the time of the prophet Haggai the Israelites were called by God to rebuild the temple which had been destroyed 70 years earlier. The people made a few half-hearted attempts to rebuild, but when the way proved difficult and costly they abandoned the temple project and focused on building their own fortunes instead.

God sent Haggai to tell them that because of their disobedience nothing they attempted would prosper. When the people heard the Word of the Lord and committed themselves to rebuilding the temple, God sent them another message:

“From this day on I will bless you.”

Even today God has spoken to many people about how he wants them to live and what he wants them to do with their lives. Too often, like the Israelites, we delay obeying God while we seek to have our fun, or save some money, or just wait for a better time. Every moment of delay not only harms our relationship with God, but delays the blessing he intends for us.

Nothing we’re holding onto could possibly be as valuable or precious as the blessing of God on our lives. So do whatever it is God has been speaking to you about, and let him unleash the blessing he’s been saving for you,

What about divorce?

Divorce“I hate divorce,” the prophet Malachi quotes God as saying. Some have used these words to condemn all who have been divorced.

But as you might suspect, there’s more to the story. In Malachi’s day the Jewish men were divorcing their Jewish wives to marry foreign women who were younger, more beautiful, and more submissive. Sound familiar? They were the original trophy wives.

God condemns these divorces and describes them as “breaking faith.” But that doesn’t mean he condemns all divorces. The New Testament specifically mentions adultery and abandonment as just causes for divorce, and some scholars believe the Bible also allows for divorce when physical abuse is present.

In all these cases, someone has broken faith with their spouse. God hates the fact that brokenness has entered the marriage, but when it has done so to an extreme degree, the innocent spouse is free to seek a divorce and remarry a person of sincere Christian faith.

But what about the guilty spouse? Or what if a divorce was obtained for purely selfish reasons? The Bible’s prescription for sin is always the same: seek forgiveness from God and the person you offended. God is eager to forgive all who sincerely turn from their sins and grant them a fresh start in Christ. That’s why the Bible calls the message of forgiveness ”good news.”