A Leaders Prayer (Psalm 101)

Psalm 101 is a beautiful anthem, profession, vow and dependent-upon-God prayer by a Hebrew King. I’ve read it numerous times. It’s fun to read it in multiple versions, from various angles. Upon reading it recently in my quiet time, I felt led to paraphrase it in the language of a contemporary marketplace leader, as a morning prayer for a business leader like me. Perhaps it’s a prayer the world would benefit from if more of us prayed (kneeling!) this before embarking upon our calendar-driven days!

Father, I pray that I would lead in such a way that embodies Your love, truth and goodness as my act of worship.

I seek to be a diligent apprentice of Your Word and uncommon path of leadership, never jeopardizing your glory or this team by foolishness, pride or shady practices.

I hope I walk with you, abiding in you and encountering Your amazing presence throughout my busyness and work today.

I will reject the rat race, deceptive American Dream and delusion that results in chasing shiny things which only leads to disappointment and destruction.

I seek to be wise in who I choose to find peer counsel in, emulate for leadership or what lifestyle and pattern of success I let define me – knowing that so many end up bankrupt, rebellious and toxic compared to abundant life in Your Kingdom!

I will guard my heart in leadership against even those shadow sins that seek to corrupt, distract, pervert or compromise me.

By Your power and for Your glory I will be an agent of transparency, dignity, love and servant leadership.

I accept my commissioning as an agent of reconciliation and will fight against evil, oppression and any expressions of a destructive culture in this place.  I ask that You give me the capacity to see people as You see them, to create such a flourishing environment that all who strive for goodness are abundantly blessed by working with me and that this organization can be a beacon of what life under Your Administration means for mankind.

Please give me strength to also be a vigilant defender of this ideal, having the courage to confront and protect this mission and these people from harm and dysfunction.  You have told me that this kind of leadership is not for the faint of heart, that daily I must armor up for the battle required to fulfill my commission and calling as a leader.  Knowing that You do not send me out but invite me to join You in this endeavor, I embrace this leadership assignment that moment by moment, day by day, my work might glorify You and be a blessing to people.

I don’t think it is a coincidence that immediately after Paul’s exhortation to some Jesus people in Turkey about being Christ-centered in work (see Ephesians 6:5-9) that he then delivers the equipping concept of the “Armor of God.” This kind of leadership is a battle. And it matters.

This is a prayer I needed today. Who else needs this prayer?

30 Questions on Stewardship (Part 3 of 3)

If you’ve been tracking with the FIRST and SECOND installments of this 3 part journey, then you’re ready to review the last 10 questions! These are the kinds of questions we live out the tension of regularly as peers (hear their WHY) in C12 Groups around the world. But these are questions every believer needs to wrestle with and I hope these final 10 will deliver a fruitful set of conversations for you with God, your spouse, your family, your business peers and community!

(21) Would You (God) ever say to me, when I stand before your judgment seat (Bema Story), “You blew it – you sold those shares and gave them to feed the hungry and evangelize the lost, and then two years later the market peaked’? Or would God say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant’?

(22) Is it ever wrong to give to God now rather than wait until later? What’s the eternal downside of giving now? What’s the eternal downside of delaying giving until later? Am I really in danger of giving too much too soon? Or is the only real danger giving too little too late? “But if I give away most of my assets now, what will I give from later?” is the answer “from whatever God chooses to provide?” If Christ commended the poor widow (Mark 12) for giving to God everything she had – considering her faithful, not irresponsible – how much would I Have to give away before He would consider me irresponsible?

(23) Why do I want to hold on to my wealth? Am I trying to prove something? What, and to whom? Is it pride? Power? Prestige? Selfishness? Insecurity? Fear? Am I a control freak? Or is it just because it’s normal and I’m going with the flow of my culture? Do you want me to go with that flow, God? Or to do something different, maybe radically different?

(24) Am I living to hear others say of me, “he/she’s a great success” or to have God say of me, “Well done my good and faithful servant?”

(25) Instead of asking “Why should I give this away?” does God want me to ask “Why shouldn’t I give this away?” Should I put the burden of proof on keeping rather than on giving? When money comes in, should giving rather than keeping be my default, the rule not the exception? Unless there’s a compelling reason to keep, should I normally give? (Why give? the answer, Biblically, couldn’t be more obvious. Why keep? When we already have so much, that’s what demands an explanation.)

Should I put the burden of proof on keeping rather than on giving?

(26) Am I hanging onto excess money as a backup plan in case God fails me? Is my fear of health catastrophes and old age creating an inertia in my giving, because I imagine I must provide everything for myself in case something goes wrong? Considering that the vast majority of people in history and most in the world today have nothing stored up for retirement, am I too preoccupied with putting treasures in retirement funds? Are you calling me to work without a net -or with less of a net – trusting you’ll catch me in case of a fall?

(27) How can I better communicate with and pray with my spouse so we can walk together down this exhilarating road of giving, leading each other but not leaving each other behind?

(28) What am I doing to train my children to be generous givers – and not just donors, but disciples?

(29) How are you calling me to steward my influence to share this message with my friends? Who could benefit from these questions?

(30) 5 minutes after I die…what will I wish I would have given away while I still had the chance? Help me spend the rest of my life closing the gap between what I’ll wish I’d given then and what I”m actually giving now. Empower me to help others do the same. Will you, God, for your eternal glory?

These are not easy questions. They are just that…questions. You have to wrestle with your answer to them. What changes do these provoke in your thinking? Will that translate to action? Who will hold you accountable for those and journey with you?

Will you be promiscuously, radically generous because of the Gospel of God’s grace fully consumed in your life? (Keller)

Tim Keller Video

30 Stewardship Questions (Part 2 of 3)

Hopefully you’ve processed through the first 10 Questions I shared HERE as part of this excerpt from my Journey of Generosity experience in 2017 with my C12 Group peers.

Let’s consider the next set of 10 questions posed:

(11) If the Bible commands us to bear one another’s burdens in Christian community, are there opportunities within my community that God might be calling me to bear? Do I assume that this isn’t my role because of my culture, or am I looking for such opportunities?

Is Christ’s undying love my true treasure, or do I actually treasure other things more?

(12) Has having more money caused me to feel more in control of my life and circumstances, and has that control become an idol for me? Is Christ inviting me into a new level of surrender where I trust Him with control of my life and future instead of trusting my money for that control? How can I step into this practically?

(13) If an outsider were to look at how I use my time, my energy and my resources, what would they learn about my priorities? Would that outsider see my time, energy, and resources being put primarily towards a hope and vision of renewal for our city and world?

(14) Do I live as if I’m focusing on heaven, where I plan to live forever, or on earth, where I’ll live one-billionth of my existence? In light of eternity, am I happy about where I’m placing my focus?

(15) If it is the nearness of God that I ultimately seek, what if I dared to pray, “Bring anything into my life – take anything away from my life as long as I get to be closer to you.’? What scares me about that prayer? what excites me about that prayer?

(16) Have you raised me up, God, with the financial assets and opportunities You’ve entrusted to me, for just such a time as this (Esther 4:14)? Have You called me to join in a great team of Your children in freeing up money and possessions to reach out to the needy and fulfill the Great Commission?

(17) What am I holding onto that’s robbing me of present joy and future reward? What am I keeping that’s preventing me from having to depend on You? What am I clinging to that makes me feel like I don’t have to depend on You to provide, like I used to before I had so much? What do You want me to release that could restore me to a walk of faith?

(18) In light of 2 Corinthians 8:14 and 9:11, do you want me to assume that each financial blessing You entrust to me is not intended to raise my standard of living, but to raise my standard of giving?

(19) Am I treating You as owner and CEO/CFO of “my” assets, or am I treating You merely as my financial consultant, whom I pay a fee (10% or greater perhaps)?

(20) Once they’ve finished college or are working on their own, would inheriting wealth (beyond items of special sentimental and heritage value) help my children’s eternal perspective and walk with God? Or would it have a corrupting influence on their character, lifestyle, work either or marriage?

These can be dangerous questions. When I gather with my peer group, we hope that we’d ask questions that are dangerous and hold each other accountable. Consider this testimony: VIDEO

30 Questions on Stewardship (Part 1 of 3)

I had the privilege of attending a Journey of Generosity retreat with my C12 Group peers (I’m a member of a CEO peer advisory group that meets in #Austin monthly) in 2017 hosted by Generous Giving. There was no ask, no pitch – in fact, it was a free to attend experience! It was meant to be a disruptive gathering for leaders to have candid conversations and discovery around how would God have us be stewards in our lives, families, and with the assets we have been entrusted with. One of the exercises was a series of questions to review and reflect upon, seeing which one God may want to do business with us on regarding.

With their permission I’d like to share these in 3 parts for you to reflect on in your own life. In 2016 we shared copies of God & Money as a resource with all C12 CEO members and these questions very much compliment the catalyst for robust stewardship that book provided.

(1) Am I viewing myself as a manager or trustee of what God’s given me, or seeing myself as owner and controller of my own stuff? Are there things that God would have me manage differently if I acknowledged them as really being His?

(2) Am I striving to use my income, influence, and privileges as God directs? or am I assuming I now what He’s asking me for (10% giving) and can use the rest as I choose? Is it a question of how much to give or how much to keep/spend?

(3) As I continue to realize that Jesus gave everything by His death on the cross to purchase me, is there a new level of sacrifice I want to give and surrender to Him?

(4) At what points in my journey with God have I realized His generous mercy in my brokenness and sin? Do I hold others to a higher standard than God holds me? Can I give radically to others even though they have brokenness and sin in their life?

(5) Does the thought of sacrificial generosity make me anxious because I feel I don’t have enough to make ends meet? Do I live trusting God to provide all that I need in the same way He provided HIs Son for me to be redeemed? Or have I compartmentalized my trust for my salvation, putting my daily needs in a different category?

(6) Is Christ’s undying love my true treasure, or do I actually treasure other things MORE? Is my money an indicator of my true treasure? Is it my reputation, comfort for my family, recognition? Or do I live my life knowing that His love and grace is all I need?

(7) Does the thought of sacrificial generosity make me anxious because I might have to carefully look at my spending and give some things up? Are there things I’ve decided are non-negotiable? The place I live? the car I drive? Do I live believing that my ultimate treasure is in heaven and not in the comforts I desire on earth?

(8) How much money do I need? Will my answer always be ‘more’? Or, can I set a finish line for myself and give away everything beyond that?

(9) What does it mean to give responsibly and wisely? how can I honor getting out of debt while giving generously? How can I honor saving for the future or estate planning while giving generously? Since Jesus praised the poor widow for giving away everything, is it possible that He is asking me to worry less about saving for the future and to give more now?

(10) Am I trustworthy to make financial decisions entirely on my own, or am I potentially biased by greed, comfort, or culture in such a way that it would benefit me to share my financial and giving goals with some mature Christians in my community? Who might some of these people be?

Reflect on these. I’ll share the other 20 over the next 2 posts. A few years ago longtime C12 member Alan Barnhart (Barnhart Crane) gave this keynote talk on the tensions of greed and effective stewardship:  VIDEO

 

20 Bad Habits

In Marshall Goldsmith’s popular coaching book, “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There,” he identified 20 Bad Habits that create challenges or limiting factors for interpersonal behaviors and relationships. As a leader, which of these do you need to eliminate in 2018?

1. Winning too much: The need to win at all costs and in all situations.

2. Adding too much value: The overwhelming desire to add our 2 cents to every discussion.

3. Passing judgment: The need to rate others and impose our standards on them.

4. Making destructive comments: The needless sarcasm and cutting remarks that we think make us witty.

5. Starting with NO, BUT, HOWEVER: The overuse of these negative qualifiers which secretly say to everyone that I’m right and you’re wrong.

6. Telling the world how smart we are: The need to show people we’re smarter than they think we are.

7. Speaking when angry: Using emotional volatility as a management tool.

8. Negativity, or “Let me explain why that won’t work”: The need to share our negative thoughts even when we weren’t asked.

9. Withholding information: The refusal to share information in order to maintain an advantage over others.

10. Failing to give proper recognition: The inability to give praise and reward.

11. Claiming credit that that we don’t deserve: The most annoying way to overestimate our contribution to any success.

12. Making excuses: The need to reposition our annoying behavior as a permanent fixture so people excuse us for it.

13. Clinging to the past: The need to deflect blame away from ourselves and onto events and people from our past; a subset of blaming everyone else.

14. Playing favorites: Failing to see that we are treating someone unfairly.

15. Refusing to express regret: The inability to take responsibility for our actions, admit we’re wrong, or recognize how our actions affect others.

16. Not listening: The most passive-aggressive form of disrespect for colleagues.

17. Failing to express gratitude: The most basic form of bad manners.

18. Punishing the messenger: The misguided need to attack the innocent who are usually only trying to help us.

19. Passing the buck: The need to blame everyone but ourselves.

20. An excessive need to be “me”: Exalting our faults as virtues simply because they’re who we are.

Psalm 19 and 139 have great examples of a leader who recognized the need to invite God to highlight where blindspots are creating a limiting factor on effectiveness.

As a leader do you have a mechanism whereby you have to reflect, self-assess and at times receive peer feedback on your leadership effectiveness? One of the great catalysts for improved performance that drives the consistent superior performance of leaders is a high-performance peer advisory group. Results matter and your leadership matters.

Source: © 2007 Marshall Goldsmith, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, Page 40-41 Hyperion Books. Reprinted with permission. 

Let Your Light Shine

Jesus said that He is “the light of the world” (John 8:12). His life contrasted sharply with the lives of the Pharisees and other religious and political leaders. The things He said and did were in stark contrast to the acts of the others. His “light” shone brightly, enabling people to easily see a difference between Him and the others. They could see it in His acts and hear it in His words and it gave them pause.  For us, the marketplace provides perhaps the greatest opportunity to demonstrate the enormous difference that having Christ makes in our lives.

When we act or react in ways that are consistent with His teachings and ways — in contrast to the world and its ways — our light shines. Others take notice.

  • Our light shines when we:
  • Turn the other cheek when attacked
  • Respond in kindness to our enemies (competitors)
  • Give erring employees another chance, extending grace (with accountability) perhaps when the world wouldn’t
  • Tell others that the most important thing in our lives is Jesus Christ,not worldly success, and then…
  • Live so they can see that it’s true
  • Go the second mile when others wouldn’t
  • Risk looking foolish for Christ where others dare not
  • Wish genuine good to all men, with the greatest good being their salvation
  • Would rather see men saved than to make a profit from them
  • Keep our word in spite of the fact that it may cost us dearly to do so
  • Honor all men, even those of much ‘lower’ place than God has called us to
  • Seek the best for others even when they appear disinterested
  • Speak the truth in love even when it is uncomfortable
  • Don’t demand the privileges that our position affords us in the eyes of the world
  • Avoid taking opportunistic advantage for ourselves even when we could
  • Use our money to build people, rather than using our people to build money
  • Do just what Jesus would do in the same circumstances. When we do, our light shines and He lives. Jesus is still The Light. He lives as we let Him shine through our good works.

This is our spiritual heritage. We have inherited it from those first disciples who sat on that mountainside near Capernaum with Jesus. He told them to “let their light shine” and, through them, this charge during the Sermon on the Mount now comes to us as His heirs and ambassadors. We are among those for whom Jesus prayed, who would later come to faith in Him through the disciples’ message (John 17:20).

Is our call holy? Yes, as holy as any that has ever been. You and I, as we live out each day, moment-by-moment in the marketplace, are involved in a holy calling and work which involves obediently following whomever God leads. We have not been called to the pulpit of a church, but to the ‘bully pulpit’ of a business. We don’t prepare sermons, we prepare budgets. We don’t exegete the Scriptures, we model them. We are the frontline troops. If it can’t happen through us, it won’t happen at all. If God’s Word isn’t as valid and binding on Monday as it is on Sunday, are you really viewing it as valid at all?

Is this a tough message to receive? Perhaps so. Since so many have opted not to live in this world with their hearts in the next, perhaps it seems too hard. The question shouldn’t be, is it hard, but, is it true?

C12 is committed not to perpetuating mediocrity, but to striving for the greatness implicit in pursuing God’s highest and best in each of our lives. This is as true in the pursuit of excellence in the ministry aspect of our business lives as it is in the purely commercial performance of the enterprise. In the eternal sense, our ministry impact is infinitely more important. As servant leaders, God calls us to ‘live large’ where He currently has us; casting a vision, defining ‘reality’ for our team, and leading by example.  We have the opportunity, now, to make a difference for eternity by bringing meaning and significance to a place where many only seek a paycheck.  We start where we are and work to grow from that point. No one has arrived. We are all ‘in process.’ Our God-given responsibility is to press on toward the high mark of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Along the way, following Him and allowing ourselves and our businesses to be shaped by the Potter’s purpose and principles will surely result in a thrilling and fruitful ride. May your light so shine among men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in Heaven.

*excerpt from “A Strategic Plan for Ministry: a business owner’s guide to Business as Ministry” by Buck Jacobs

3 Letter Words

The 3 letter word I most enjoy in Scripture is the word BUT.  Sure, for some folks BUT is the grand entrance of an excuse (see this video), but of the 3,994 times it appears in the Bible in all kinds of common contexts there are 584 times when BUT precedes another 3 letter word that marks a radical pivot of a story: BUT…God!  Genesis 31:7, Genesis 50:20, Exodus 13:18, 1 Samuel 23:14, Psalm 73:26, Acts 13:30, 1 Cor 1:27, Ephesians 2:4 (wahoo!)…There is a trajectory of events, statements, circumstances that are barreling towards a “logical” conclusion and then those 3 letter words hijack the vector entirely to an outcome, conclusion, or reality not even fathomable prior to them.  BUT GOD changes everything.

We are ambassadors of an All Mighty God who in response to the overwhelming challenges and needs around us proclaims through us, “Yes, it is bad.  Yes, it is overwhelming.  Yes, it has been this way a long time.  Yes, you don’t know how it can really change.  Yes, this is just how it is.  BUT GOD!”

BUT GOD will glorify Himself…with people hurting or things not going how we would design for them to go, He will.  In a nation having seizures from chronic overdoses of hedonism and rebellion.  In a city with a lot of needs.  In complicated situations that requires supernatural unity…BUT GOD will glorify Himself among His people by His power and for His Name Sake!

Let’s never shy away from telling people about the “BUT GOD” factor of Jesus!

Lessons from Sweet Potatoes & Fish Poop

I was recently in Honduras working on some mission projects.  Part of my itinerary involved some time at Orphanage Emmanuel, by far my favorite orphanage project in the world.  As part of their quest to be as lean and self-sustaining as possible (with 600 kids you have to maximize ingenuity!), they have constructed such practical things as livestock, above-ground tilapia farm in a greenhouse, hydroponic facilities for vegetables and an expanding farm for produce.  The tilapia farm is the newest gem and what’s great about it is that in addition to thousands of pounds of quality protein for the kiddos every few months, the waste material is harvested as a renewable supply of fertilizer for the hydroponics and general farming operation.  I was impressed!

While there the brilliantly innovative director, Wade, shared a recent lesson learned which had profound implications, metaphorically, for so much of life.  In the rush of excitement to use this new-found fertilizer from the tilapia, they had begun to generously fertilize their high production plants, like sweet potatoes.  In fact, hoping to develop a high yield strategy for sweet potatoes to become a nutritional staple for the facility, they planted tons of sweet potatoes with lots of fish poop to enhance it.  Almost immediately they saw the results – incredible plants!  Foliage that was gorgeous, lush, blooming rich flowers and clearly becoming a powerhouse of a plant.  Or so they thought.  Harvest time came.  Those incredible plants on the surface produced NO potatoes in the ground!

Potatoes need regular soil, water and periodic lack of nutrition to trigger the process of creating deeper roots and deposits of nitrates which ultimately become the vegetable prize desired.  The excessive abundance and ease of the nutrients in the soil actually impeded the fruit production of the plant and instead it became a decorative showcase with no actual value for the kids.  This was not easily undone, because the soil was now highly fortified.  So it is will take a series of seasons of intentionally drawing out the nutrients from those fields before it can serve to grow high yield potatoes again.

Sometimes adversity is our friend.  Stress cultivates strength.  Lack breeds ingenuity and innovation.  Often ease, comfort and excess yields topical beauty but shallow or deficient roots.  We often blindly put too much energy into stress mitigation, comfort maximization, trial avoidance (not talking about wisdom here, obviously!) and miss the very mission of life (hint: which isn’t just to bypass as much pain as possible).

What do you take away from this story?

 

Optical Delusions

We place so much confidence in what our senses tell us.  We know that some of our senses are less reliable than others – stuff that tastes good is often not so good for us, stuff that tastes, well, “less than good,” is supposedly great for us.  Our rear view mirrors tell us “objects may be closer than they appear,” so our vision is easily distorted.  If our physical senses are so easily betrayed, compromised or limited…how much so our supernatural, spiritual senses?  We *feel* alone.  We see ‘no way this can work out.’ We feel hopeless, overwhelmed, “forced to do X because I had no other choice,” and a series of “logical” and “just the facts” conclusions.

What if we’re wrong?

Like icebergs, there is a lot of reality we do NOT see!

 

One of my favorite Bible stories is in 2 Kings 6, verses 8-23.  The King of Aram (modern day Syria) is determined to put a stop to the work of Elisha, a prophet who was foiling his plans for domination.  He takes a massive force and lays siege to the small town where Elisha is staying.  Elisha’s helper takes a look outside and sees the small town literally surrounded by a massive enemy force determined to destroy them.

What are “the facts?”  Clearly there IS an enemy.  The forces are vast!  Elisha and the citizens ARE outnumbered.  This is CLEARLY a massacre about to happen.  All senses correctly corroborate the gut feeling everyone is experiencing: we’re going to lose, get captured or likely die!

The story pivots as Elisha (let’s call him Cool Cal for fun) prays in verse 17 for God to open the eyes of this anxiety-stricken fellow.  The FULL reality does not reveal that the enemy is an illusion, that the forces are less than assessed nor that they are the clear underdog – but that there is MORE than “meets the eye.”  God had in waiting an entire battalion of angelic forces poised and waiting to bring a supernatural remedy.  The story turns almost comedic as Elisha then prays for God to confuse the enemy and then leads them to a humorous and non-violent conclusion.

Where do we need the same prayer?  Where do we need to have the prayer of “God, let me see not just what I see as real, but what YOU are doing in this!?”  We need to pray and live with eyes to truly see beyond what is clearly visible.

We draw so many conclusions.  This marriage is stuck and will never be better.  The markets are falling so this business is hopeless.  S/He is so far gone, there’s no hope for them.  I was denied this job, the deal fell through, there is no buyer, so clearly we might as well pack up and head home now.  In passionate pursuit of a goal, how easily do we suffer target fixation?

Where are you like the servant in this story, paralyzed by the obvious and perhaps missing the supernatural?  Where do you operate under optical delusions – that what you see is all there is?

Stop Praying for God to Show Up

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What difference would it make if you knew you were not alone.  Ever.  What if you constantly had a super-power posse of characters who would put the Incredibles to shame with you everywhere?

A couple of stories in the Bible perplex me and I’m convinced, while legitimately historical scenes, they are insights into how many of us live too many of our days.  Here’s the rub…

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