For Better, Or Worse?

imageA story is told how the owner of a prominent restaurant chain went to visit a pastor friend of his. In a rush to make an upcoming meeting, the men decided to stop in a competitor’s restaurant to grab a quick bite to eat. However, after both men finished washing their hands, the pastor admitted to being totally amazed when his friend grabbed some paper towels and began wiping and cleaning the bathroom sink! When asked why he was doing this, his friend confessed that he coached his employees to always leave a place better than they find it, and that he was no exception, even if that place happened to be his competition’s restroom.

The pastor thanked his friend for reminding him that the same goal should be shared by all Christians. As we consider this point, how are we as followers of Christ impacting the places and people we encounter on a daily basis? Are they better, the same, or worse off? Three habits can help us ensure our impact is a positive one:

Seek Out Truth: God reminds us that He waits for us to come to Him so that He can show us His love and help us in all He has called us to do (Isaiah 30:18). Yet, we often continue to hurry our days and leave little time to seek His help. Thus, is it any surprise when we fail to impact our surroundings in a positive way? God will open our eyes to opportunities and grant us the wisdom to seize them, when we invest the time to pursue His truth through our prayers, fellowship and study of His Word.

Take Out Trash: Doubt, confusion, disappointments and frustrations are all a part of life. None of us can avoid them, but just like trash in our home begins to stink and overflow if not removed, we too must actively remove the trash that fills our hearts and minds. Otherwise, we may begin to stink and sour all the places we go (2 Corinthians 2:14).

Live Out Time: We all have a limited amount of time entrusted to us. Therefore, how can we ensure we’re using our time to make a positive impact on others and for Christ? It may sound cliche’, but we must live like there’s no tomorrow (Ephesians 5:16). For example, suppose we knew when we were going to die.  Would our remaining time be spent pursuing selfish gratifications, or invested in those we love to ensure they knew how much we cared for them? Thankfully, we can start this process today so that when our time does come, we know we gave far more than we took.

Application: “Making Hay During The Light Of Day” – Luke 10:2
Years ago in Ireland, farmers often asked their priests to pray for no rain as they began to harvest their hay. This was in hopes God would provide them the time necessary to collect and sell their crop without the interference of rain ruining its value – likewise, may we continue to pray for God’s grace and for the wisdom to invest our time given in such a way that wherever we go, we leave it better, rather than soured.  Thus, supporting our role and contribution to the Kingdom harvest.

“Wait” Lifting

imageMany of us don’t enjoy waiting, especially when we’re so accustomed to the faster-is-better lifestyle here in America. In fact, I never realized just how hurried I was until I visited South Africa during a recent mission trip. Although, much of the country is modernized with such things as wifi and fine dining, I found the culture to be much slower-paced. For example, I would wake each morning eager to enjoy the incredible coffee one particular restaurant served. However, whenever I placed my order, it seemed to take forever before I actually received it – especially, when I was in a “hurry” to get to our particular destination for that day.

Yet, after about a week, I discovered I was no longer bothered by the wait. In fact, I even stopped looking at my watch on a constant basis – I was detoxing from living rushed and learning how to wait in peace.

Interestingly, I have found my walk with Christ to be very similar, and even though I still struggle with patience at times, I wanted to share three principles that can help us embrace the peace God provides during those times He seemingly keeps us waiting:

Dependence: A great example of exercising effective waiting skills comes from the life of Joseph. Not only was he sold into slavery by his brothers, but he was also falsely accused of attempted rape by his boss’ wife and thrown into prison – and yet, during this entire time, his patient trust in God never seemed to waiver. Instead, he later proclaimed that God intended it all for good (Genesis 50:20). Thus, no matter how bad our circumstances may appear, when we are completely dependent and trusting God, we can commit to doing our best wherever He has placed us and trust His best to unfold in His perfect timing.

Desire: If what we desire most is based upon how much joy and feelings of happiness we receive from it, we dilute our effectiveness for the Kingdom and our ability to wait for God’s best. However, as we know from the life of Paul, who declared his primary desire was to bring glory to God (Acts 20:24), we too can become powerful instruments for the Kingdom when we position ourselves to be used by Him no matter the cost to our time and/or treasures – and who wouldn’t “desire” to be honored with such a legacy as that?

Direction: The impact of our life is directly determined by our ability to wait on God’s timing and follow His direction for our life. As we learn from both Moses and Abraham, they left cozy comforts to follow God and lead others in the direction He provided (Hebrews 11:8). Even though they faced hard times, set backs and distractions, in the end, they trusted in His plan and purpose for their lives over their own. Thankfully, God still leads His people today, just as He led Moses and Abraham, but are we patient and wise enough to head His call in our own lives?

Application: “In God We Trust” – John 11:6
In many ways, patience serves as a wonderful test and testimony to our faith. For in order to wait effectively, we must actively seek God’s direction, desire His purposes over all others and trust in His perfect timing, not our own. Thus, waiting is an active process, never passive and when exercised and applied, it will grow stronger, along with our faith.

Leading With Impact?

imageThere is a story that tells of a former military general who once approached an officer trying to rally his soldiers to lift a large piece of timber into place. The men were struggling to do so and when the general inquired as to why the officer wasn’t physically helping, the man quickly replied, “because I am the commanding officer.” Undeterred, the general dismantled from his horse and joined the men below to help lift the log into place. Once the task was completed, the general wiped the sweat from his brow, remounted his horse and informed the officer that if his assistance was ever needed again, he was free to call for the commander in chief anytime – this general, of course, was George Washington.

Clearly, we will all face various leadership styles and choices in our own lives, especially when we assume roles of responsibility. However, we also know leaders like Washington are rare, because many aren’t willing to sacrifice their position, or time in order to inspire and lead others most effectively. Therefore, as we engage others, it’s vital we consider our approach:

Hollow Leadership: This is being in charge, but not in command. For example, as parents, we have all been designated with the responsibility of leading our children to Christ and building their character (Luke 2:52). If we have employees, we have been entrusted with their career development & personal accountability. However, we continue to be bombarded with absentee parents and managers – thus, let us lead lives of substance and contribution rather than a hollow existence that seeks only to consume.

Harmful Leadership: Do our actions place stumbling blocks before others, or serve as stepping stones to empower them to new heights? We have all had relationships that contributed fear over peace, chaos over vision, segregation over collaboration, and criticism over solutions (Matthew 12:25). Typically, these leaders struggle with insecurity and pride. Therefore, we must be careful to identify such detriments in our own homes, jobs and affiliations.

Helpful Leadership: This is seeking to propel the prosperity of any environment we may find ourselves for God’s glory and not our own (Jeremiah 29:7). As Christians, we are described as the “light of the world“, but as such, we are to be sources of contribution and guidance to others. So, even though we may not prefer the people, or places God has provided us, we can still strive to help others and give our best.

Application: “Going The Second Mile With A Smile”Matthew 5:41

In a world filled with self consumption, self promotion and self absorption, it can be difficult to be self sacrificing. We may feel we will be left behind, fall back, stomped over and taken advantage of, but as a wise pastor once stated, “when we serve as bridges to Christ, we can expect to be walked over.” In the end, this life is not about how many accomplishments and accolades we acquire for ourselves, but for the Kingdom of Christ.

Who’s Cooking What I’m Consuming?

imageWe may be familiar with the old adage, “we are what we eat,” but the quality of what we consume applies not only to our bodies, but to our spirits as well. Naturally, when we eat junk, we don’t receive the nutrition required to function at optimum levels. As a result, we may feel tired, sluggish and even lethargic. Likewise, when we read, watch, and/or listen to junk, our spirit doesn’t receive the biblical truth necessary to function at its optimum level. Thus, we become less effective in our calling as disciples and in utilizing the various demands and opportunities that come our way for the glory of Christ (Romans 8:6). Therefore, we must consider not only what we eat, but what we allow our minds to consume as well. Consider – from which of the three primary sources of information do we feed-off the most?

The World: When there is a vacuum of wholesome communication, or lack of virtuous leadership, there are worldly influencers eager to fill the void for the benefit of expanding their particular positions. So, whom are we relenting our control to, and who’s agenda is getting promoted and digested? Obviously, everything we read, watch and listen to has an agenda. This is because people have opinions and naturally, want to express them, especially when in roles of leadership, creativity and communication. Therefore, we can not underestimate the impact the information we consume has on shaping our values, actions and beliefs. Clearly, we can not disengage and isolate ourselves from the realities of this world, or from our biblical purpose here, but being in the world never means we have to conform to it (Romans 12:2).

The Wicked: Did Satan tempt Eve with an apple and Jesus with bread because he cared for their needs? Clearly, not – even though he may attempt to feed us, it’s not for our benefit. Rather, it’s a veiled attempt to distract us from our Kingdom mission, cause us to doubt God, question His reasons and enslave us to our desires over His. Thus, evil will gladly cook for and feed us, if allowed. Therefore, we must always be on guard to carefully consider our pursued sources and what they promote (2 Corinthians 11:3).

The Word: God’s truth feeds our soul and strengthens our spirit so that we can be more than conquerers in all He has called us to. However, we must desire to come to His table and eat. This includes willingly investing time in His word, in prayer, in fellowship and in full surrender to His Lordship in our life. We must yearn to eat only from His table and grow disciplined in steering clear from the tempting distractions of the world and the wicked. For even though what they offer may look appealing and tasty, Jesus is our only sustaining source of sustenance (Matthew 5:6).

Application: “Don’t Settle for Slop” – Luke 15:16-17
Just as the prodigal son desired for independence from his father to make his own way and have his way, it eventually led him to a lonely pig pin eating slop. Likewise, we too can be lured away by the incitements of the world’s pleasures and starve our spirit of any lasting peace and satisfaction. However, there is another way, another choice we can make – for as the beloved children of God the Father, we never have to settle for the others’ slop.