A friend of mine did something last week and was amazed that she had not done it before. To paraphrase her words, "It was so simple, what kept her from just doing it some time ago?"
My suggestion was the "what if...?" trap.
We get so caught up in this kind of limited thinking and bottom line, it can paralze us from moving forward and doing what we've been called to do. It can stop us from simple tasks to moving forward with power and vision.
What if I lose my job?
What if Washington goes broke?
What if I fail?
What if people criticize me?
What if I break something?
What if, what if what if...? it's a trap.
We can think ourselves into inaction or mediocrity if we let the "what if...?" trap take over our minds and hearts.
David inspires me to think differently in Psalm 27:
[What, what would have become of me] had I not believed that I would see the Lord's goodness in the land of the living! Wait and hope for and expect the Lord; be brave and of good courage and let your heart be stout and enduring. Yes, wait for and hope for and expect the Lord. (Amplified Version)
David believed. He wasn't hopelessly caught up in the "what if...? "trap. Hopelessness is terrible and instead David chose to have a stout and enduring heart. He wasn't giving up on his vision, He was trusting God. He was believing, not analyzing.
He didn't look at what could happen, he chose to believe that God's goodness would prevail in spite of all the "what ifs" that faced him. He chose to wait, hope and expect the Lord to bring all things (mistakes and victories) together for His good.
I love reading about the crossing of the Red Sea. Can you imagine it? Here’s this large natural boundary parting and you walk or run across it? The movie, The Prince of Egypt, if my favorite depiction. You can see the fish swimming in the sea, but being held back as this wall of water is towering above the people. The path is even dry. God takes care of every detail. What a triumph of faith.
But what happens after the Red Sea moment?
It didn’t take the Israelites long to forget it. They rumbled and grumbled. They saw giants in the land God promised them instead of opportunity. They hated the food, they were ready to go back into slavery. Sadly, they are not alone.
You can search Scripture and discover many similar patterns. Elijah sees God perform incredible miracles and then runs away and feels a loss of faith. The great warrior David hides in the enemy camp. He’d seen God do such wonders in his life, but he lost his focus. He forgot the many “Red Sea Crossings” he’d experienced.
Unfortunately I’m not any better. God works out so much for me. He orders my steps. I see His provision, His kindness, His forgiveness, His blessing and His power. He sets me on dry land and He holds back the waters, yet, instead of remembering and resting in the Red Sea afterglow, I sometimes forget. I fall into the same trap as the Israelites, Elijah, David and many others.
Psalm 62:8 comes to mind, “Trust in, lean on, rely on, and have confidence in Him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts before Him. God is a refuge for us (a fortress and a high tower). Selah [pause, and calmly think of that]! From the Amplified Bible.
How do I stay focused on God and not have post Red Sea letdown? I need to marinate in the presence of God and dwell in Him. I need to have confidence in HIM all the time, not just when I'm crossing the Red Sea. It’s simple. When I’m focused on Him, I don’t forget. David, Elijah and the Israelites took their eyes from God and put them on circumstances or emotions or thoughts. They pushed out the Red Sea moment and allowed negativity or doubt or pride or despair take its place.
We overcome Red Sea letdown when we choose to focus on Him and confidently trust, rely, lean on and dwell in Him. He occupies our mind, instead of the noise of emotions, thoughts and fears.
How about you? How do you keep rightly focused and avoid Red Sea letdown?
It's interesting to me that a few days ago Showtime changed its deal with Netflix and now Starz is following suit. Last Thursday, the pay TV channel said it would no longer put its original content on Netflix the day after it runs on the channel. Now it will wait three months. Starz also said it would eventually do the same with the theatrical movies it carries. The moves from Showtime and Starz come after Netflix made its first foray into original programming, making the company even more of a competitor.
Is this thinking about the customer? Or thinking abundantly? I don't think so.
Years ago Steven Covey introduced us to abundant thinking. More recently Seth Godin has polished the concept to bring it to not just leadership, but marketing and products as well.
These announcements seem like a "hoarding" mentality. One that is restrictive. One that isn't customer focused, but rather, "self focused." The companies are asking, "What's best for us?" rather than "What's best for our customer?"
John 10:10 also talks about abundant life. It reminds us, "The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly."
Jesus's words are a stark contrast to a hoarding mentality. He brings to us not just forgiveness and hope, but an opportunity to live an abundant life. The word implies "well beyond." It's a life well beyond the normal, well beyond anything we've seen or lived. But, we have to also read verse 11.
Jesus continues and says, "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for His sheep."
The essence of God's abundance lies in His sacrifice. It's not about what Jesus can "do" for us, it's what He "did" for us, at the cross.
When we understand that, then we can begin to understand His incredible, matchless love for us and then we can fully see His promise for an abundant life. It's not possessions, it's His love and character working through us and in us every day. That's abundance.
What do you think?
Knowing what you want is very important.
It's surprising how many people, even those in leadership roles in large, multi-national organizations and ministries, do know really know what they want. They are good people with good motives and good ideas. They work hard and get a lot done. But, their values are inconsistent; their vision is not clear. They are wandering in the fog.
To ultimately realize the power of commitment, we must be sure of where we are going and what attitudes and behavior will ensure that we arrive at our destination with our head held high.
Commitment has its origins in clearly perceived values and vision.
Personal Values. I enjoyed reading George W. Bush's book Decision Points. I'm not arguing politics here, but it's obvious to me, after reading the book, that Bush had a set of personal values that were uncompromising and clear. He made decisions from those values. He may have seemed stubborn, but each time he needed to make a decision, he fell back to his personal values. Our values reflect what we feel is important. They are motivators and they give us reasons to do or not to do. If we don't have a set of highly thought out values, we're in a fog when crunch time comes.
Developing a Vision. It's important for a leader to be committed to a vision. Vision is the ability to look beyond today, beyond the obstacles, beyond the majority opinion and gaze across the horizon of time and imagine greater things ahead. It's the ability to see what is not yet reality. It includes foresight as well as insight. Knowing our vision keeps us out of the fog. It keeps us from rattling around and simply punching the time clock.
Leaders who have climbed above the fog know what they are committed to. They have forged values and vision on the anvil of time, experience, hope and faith.
What values drive you? What's your vision?
The story is told that Andrew Jackson's boyhood friends just could not understand how he became a famous general and then the President of the United States. They knew of other men who had greater talent but who never succeeded. One of Jackson's friends said, "Why, Jim Brown, who lived right down the pike from Jackson, was not only smarter but he could throw Andy three times out of four in a wrestling match. But look where Andy is now." Another friend responded, "How did there happen to be a fourth time? Didn't they usually say three times and out?" "Sure, they were supposed to, but not Andy. He would never admit he was beat -- he would never stay 'throwed.' Jim Brown would get tired, and on the fourth try Andrew Jackson would throw him and be the winner." Picking up on that idea, someone has said, "The thing that counts is not how many times you are 'throwed,' but whether you are willing to stay 'throwed'." Leaders face setbacks, but must take courage and go forward in faith and trust. The battle is the Lord's, so there is no excuse for us to stay "throwed"!
Perseverance – what it takes to stay with something until it is completed. Andrew Jackson evidently understood the word.
A. B. Meldrum once said, “Bear in mind, if you are going to amount to anything, that your success does not depend upon the brilliancy and the impetuosity with which you take hold, but upon the everlasting and sanctified bull-doggedness with which you hang on after you have taken hold.”
Throughout the history of man, leaders have usually propelled the greatest achievements with an against-all-odds tenacity. The unshakable convictions of the righteous of a cause have kept adventurers, explorers, entrepreneurs and visionaries going despite overwhelming difficulty and fierce competition from the market. They were and continue to be persistent, holding fast to their beliefs and moving the organization or the idea forward.
The Apostle Paul writes to the Philippians:
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Incredible words from an incredibly persevering man. Paul was humble enough to know he had not arrived. He is focused on the prize (the right goal). He learned from his mistakes and pressed ahead. He was committed from a deep sense of purpose and he trusted something outside of his own pride, knowledge and resume.
Julian Phillips and Allan Kennedy wrote, “Success in instilling values appears to had had little to do with charismatic personality. Rather it derived from obvious, sincere, sustained personal commitment to the values the leaders sought to implant, coupled with extraordinary persistence in reinforcing those values.”
Persistence is critical to leading any organization or group of people. Persistence, not prideful stubbornness, but a laser-sharp focus on biblical values, goals and humility.
It's too bad that Noah's and the whole ark story is often relegated to a simple story about animals and two by two. Noah (Genesis 6) was a hero and he's clearly an example of a leader who's obedient to God's will.
It's not like God didn't give everyone the same opportunity as He gave Noah. I'm sure He did, but they refused to listen. They stayed in their box of comfort, traditionalism, pride and self. Many scholars believe they had never seen rain. They must have been thinking, "What's a boat?" Can you imagine the peer pressure Noah felt? His family felt?
Noah turned his back on business as usual. He turned his back on conventional wisdom. Noah turned his eyes heavenward, stayed focused on what God was telling him and he was rescued and blessed.
What does that tell us as leaders? What does Noah's example show us?
Noah's a leaderhip hero. There is a lot we can learn from him. The bottom line - obedience to God's vision won't always make sense, but we can be protected by doing what He asks us to do. Noah was fully dedicated to living in God's will. He went against the flow, he stayed tuned in to what God asked and called him to do.
We all make decisions. Every day, whether we're president of the U.S. or a small child, we make decisions. We reach a place, a fork in the road, a business problem, a playgound turmoil, where we must choose something. We seek change, we want peace, we want to get ahead, we want more marketshare and profits. We need to make a decision.
Many people make quick decisions. They think that the quantity of decisions they make is the goal. They trudge down the agenda and rapidly change directions, policies and conditions without much hesitation. At the end of the day they may feel better ("Hey, the agenda is completed") but they also may be swimming in shallow water.
The best decisions are quality decisions. Ones where we get input and go deeper to find the best solutions. Not the quickest, not the one that feels better, but the one that best leads the organization or our lives in the right direction.
In Luke 5:1-7 Jesus shows us how to go deeper and make quality decisions. In this narrative, the fishermen are just coming ashore from a lousy day. No fish. They are cleaning thier nets (no small task in the first century) and Jesus tells them to go back out to deeper waters. They are tired from their day, they probably don't "feel" like going back out, but they do (and this is key).
When they went deeper, following the voice of Jesus, Scripture says, "They caught a great number of fish." The result shows the right decision. It shows wisdom of going deeper when we don't feel like going deeper. They had every reason to make a quick decision, but they chose (another key) to go deeper.
Our natural self says, "Nope, I've tried, I'm done. I'm deciding this because I'm not feeling it." This is shallow water living. Jesus tells us to go deeper. In spite of our feelings, in spite of all the data ("We didn't catch any fish today"), He says, "Go deeper. Follow my instruction and go deeper to find the answer (in this case so many fish that their net was breaking).
We can make quick decisions. We can stay in shallow water and rattle off the decisions based on our feelings or some data.
Or, we can go deeper. We can seek quality decisions by listening to Jesus voice, going deeper and finding wisdom in the depths.
Proverbs 2: 1-6 says:
MY SON, if you will receive my words and treasure up my commandments within you,
2Making your ear attentive to skillful and godly Wisdom and inclining and directing your heart and mind to understanding [applying all your powers to the quest for it];
3Yes, if you cry out for insight and raise your voice for understanding,
4If you seek [Wisdom] as for silver and search for skillful and godly Wisdom as for hidden treasures,
5Then you will understand the reverent and worshipful fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of [our omniscient] God.
6For the Lord gives skillful and godly Wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.
Seek wisdom and quality decisions. Go for the deeper waters and reap the benefits of quality decisions, not fast ones, not feeling ones, not data ones. Quality ones.
My Father, Ray R. Hastings, went to Heaven on December 26th. He spent ninety years on this earth and his life impacted thousands of people.
Dad was, in the words of one of his best friends, unique. He began his life in Kansas. I remember stories from my Grandmother and his aunt about how tiny he was and that they had to keep him alive and warm by putting him in the oven. A unique way to begin.
Dad started working at nine. He was a gandy dancer for the railroad, digging ditches and working twelve to fourteen hour days. This experience did two things for him. It gave him an incredible work ethic, plus it started his fifty-year smoking habit. You see, the only break from hard work he got was a smoke break, so why not. He quit smoking, cold turkey, at sixty. He was unique.
Dad was a star athlete in High School. He excelled in football, track and wrestling. He was fast, sure footed and strong. I remember when I was ten or eleven racing him about 200 yards. He whipped my tail. He was the strongest man I ever knew and always could turn a screw one or two more times than I could. Nobody in thier right mind would arm wrestle with him. I never saw him lose, even to younger men.
He was a patriot. He joined the National Guard at eighteen and eventually, on a tip from his father, wound up in the Army Air Corps (Dad hated the term Air Force). He was a Tech Sergeant responsible for the lead plane in his company, the 83rd bomb group. He was proud of his country and his war service took him around the world supporting ground troups with B-25 raids. A pilot from his group told me, "Everyone wanted to fly on Ray's plane. They knew it would be perfect."
Dad left the army in 1945 and married my mother. They have a legacy of sixty-five years of marriage. Near the same time, he found his career and spent almost fifty years doing what he loved to do.
Two stories galvanize my dad to my mind and heart:
The first was when I was about ten. We were in the desert town of Barstow, CA and Dad needed some critical information about a piece of property. He found the person with whom he needed to talk at his home. Dad parked our car across the street and went to the house. It seemed like two hours later he came back. His clothes were filthy (he always wore a tie, dress slacks and a coat). When my mother asked what he was doing, he told us that the man was working on his car and Dad helped him change the oil. He got the information he needed, made a friend and helped a person in need. That was my unique Dad. He enjoyed people and especially helping them.
The second was when I was fifteen. I was working in his office when a senior city official came to visit. It wasn't five minutes into the meeting when I heard loud voices and saw my Dad, one hand on the visiting man's collar and the other holding him up by back of the belt. Dad literally threw the man bodily out of his office. I heard the stunned visitor say, "You'll never work in this town again!" It seems the official asked my Dad to falsify some documents and as a payback, he'd be rewarded some prime contracts. My Dad had tremendous honesty and integrity. He'd never do it. Truth is, after this event, my Father had so much work outside of our town, he couldn't do it all without help.
Dad was unique, hard working, honest, happily married and a story teller. He's probably fishing someplace in heaven, or telling stories to someone. He left us an incredible legacy. He's pain free and I can't wait to see him again.
It's a priviege to be a part of the direction of light. So often we're stuck. We're stuck pointing to things that don't matter. I watch the countless Christmas season commercials and wonder what they really represent. As I sit and watch my earthly father move closer and closer to Heaven's door this week, the important priorities become much clearer. Our direction, or light needst always be toward Jesus, his plan, his salvation and his home.
We have the opportunity to point light to countless people online. It's a natural way to begin conversation and engage people worldwide.
@stickyJesus: how to live out your faith online, by Tami Heim and Toni Birdsong, is a book about how to infuse God’s heartbeat into social networks. This post is part of the @stickyJesus Blog Tour of Light. You can follow @stickyJesus on Twitter, Facebook, or learn more about the book at www.stickyJesus.com.
He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. - John 1:8, NIV
If John the Baptist was clear on one thing in his life it was this: that he was nothing compared to the hurricane that was coming.
John the Baptist is one of scripture’s best examples of a human point of Light that never wavered. So much so that the darkness (Herod) eventually took off John’s head for shining light on people’s sin.
Everything about John’s life pointed heavenward. He wasn’t known for confusing the crowds. They knew exactly where he stood. His words, teachings, and lifestyle were an arrow leading people straight to Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah. The scriptures never indicate pride, grumbling, or an identity crisis regarding John’s attitude. He was born to herald The One True Light when it burst into the world. And that’s exactly what he did.
What if we all had the calling, clarity, and consistency of John?
But our lives don’t always point to Christ—especially when we log online; our purpose is not always so crystal clear. Words stream in and words stream out; sometimes inspired and anointed, other times casual and rambling.
In the Land of Shiny Things the faces, agendas, opinions, and ideologies of others fall over our eyes and minds like fresh fallen snow. We then respond with our faces, agendas, opinions, and ideologies. And the cycle repeats. If we aren’t careful this routine can gradually divert our light until we begin to illuminate ourselves instead of God.
Dwight L. Moody once said, “Christians are the world’s Bible.” He wasn’t elevating man’s authority, just acknowledging that most unbelievers will never read the bible. But they will watch you.
Do you have to get up on a rock and preach like John to be heard? Not quite.
Your life points to Christ when you:
Don’t have to project status or perfection.
Don’t pass judgment.
Don’t have to win every argument.
Don’t need to act like a big shot.
Take the time to encourage others.
Care about the details.
Listen to and respond thoughtfully to what’s going on in other people’s lives.
Respond to unfair treatment minus the bitterness.
Learn from criticism without defensiveness.
Forgive and ask for forgiveness.
Can suffer a failure or a loss without being emotionally devastated.
Are consistently kind, generous, and loving to everyone regardless or title, rank, or position in life.
The online world creates a fantastic opportunity for you to echo John’s humility and mission-centric heart.
If you truly are a Christ follower, you’ve settled in your heart that your life is not your own. Like John, your life is a directional sign that shines a light—for the lost, the broken, the prideful, and the imprisoned—so they too can make it home.
Post/Tweet this today:
John’s life and mission pointed to Christ. Where does your life point when you log online? #LiveSticky
Join us tomorrow for The Armor of Light: Your Power Online at The Virtual Abbey’s blog. http://thevirtualabbey.blogspot.com/ (Wayne – here is the link to the VA so you can place the link behind the name Possible question below – but you need to pick one that you know will stimulate conversation with your readers!)
Is it difficult for you to point to Christ in your online circles? What’s your biggest challenge?