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Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Welcome to Heaven

I once heard a story about the difference between Heaven and Hell.

A man dies; he’s met in a kind of divine foyer by an angel and taken to a huge room with a long table, covered with plates and bowls heaped with delicious food. There are people sitting all along both sides of the table, but they look angry, frustrated — and famished. Suddenly the man notices that none of the people have elbow joints. They’re all desperately trying to feed themselves, and they can’t reach their mouths. The angel says, “This is Hell.”




Then the man is whisked by the angel to another room that looks exactly the same –long table heaped with food; people down both sides, no elbow joints...but these people look happy and well-nourished.
This is Heaven,” the angel says.


Then the man looks closer,
and sees that all the people are feeding each other across the table.

The point? Much of life is about perspective. 
It has been said that life is not about the cards that you are dealt; rather it is how you play the cards that you have been dealt.  God has placed you here on earth for a reason.  And if you are reading this post, then you can assume that you still have one.

-May you find it.
-----May you thrive.
-May you live. 

May you welcome people to heaven on earth... 

I John 3: 16-17.  But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him. 
Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Good Morning, fellow Lepers.

Good morning, fellow Lepers
Joseph Damien was a nineteenth-century missionary who ministered to people with leprosy on the island of Molokai, Hawaii.

Those suffering grew to love him and revered the sacrificial life he lived out before them. 

One morning before Damien was to lead daily worship, he was pouring some hot water into a cup when the water swirled out and fell onto his bare foot. It took him a moment to realize that he had not felt any sensation. Gripped by the sudden fear of what this could mean, he poured more hot water on the same spot. Again, there was no feeling whatsoever. Damien immediately knew what had happened. 

As he walked to deliver his sermon, no one at first noticed the difference in his opening line. He normally began every sermon with, 'My fellow believers,' but this morning he began with... 'My fellow lepers.' 
                                                                               (Story told by Ravi Zacharias)

Damien could fully relate to the lepers because he became a leper. He knew personally the struggles that they faced. He could actually feel their pain. Let's think about Jesus for a moment. He was made like us and therefore understands the hurts we experience.  According to the book of Hebrews, we learn, "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin." 


I think I can speak for everyone in regards to our need for a Savior that identifies with our human struggles. Isn't it comforting to know that the frustrations we carry, the sorrows compounded in our hearts and even our failures can be understood by the God-Man, Jesus Christ?

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Why I'm [severely] Unbalanced.

No. I am not talking about having one leg longer than the other or a lop-sided head.

I am talking about my personality & skill set. Now I know that admitting this to you right up front may cause you to pause and scratch your head. Nevertheless, since you are reading this, you and I have some sort of a relationship, so I think it proper to let you know this about me right up front.

See, I am not well-rounded. I am rather obtuse.

And I like it that way.

There is the conventional wisdom going around that is telling people that they should be men and women that seek conformity.  You know the saying, "The nail that stands out gets hammered back in." That's right: be the lame, sorry, boring nail that's in the wood.  Pardon me as I take a nap. No thanks. I'll stand out. Sure it's risky. But tell me, what in your life has made any kind of impact that was not risky?  Recently, I finished up a great little book by Peter Drucker and in it he shared a similar lesson.  During the Civil War, President Lincoln appointed 3 or 4 Generals before General Grant.  He chose the men due to their well-rounded background, personality and skills. And guess what? From 1861 to 1864, the North did not make any headway -that is until Grant commanded the troops.  Grant was known for his capable planning and leading winning campaigns. He was also known, however, for his temper and love for the bottle. Drucker said that Lincoln chose Grant not, "for his sobriety, rather for his ability to win battles."



This is true in any organization.  If you hire a person / staff to avoid weakness, then do not be surprised if you end up with mediocrity. Hiring for well-roundness is a sure recipe for a vanilla workplace.  Strong people have peaks and valleys. Sometimes very high peaks and very low valleys.
But at least you get something spectacular.

Think of the greatest basketball player to ever walk the court, Micheal Jordan (please don't argue this point, just accept this as a reality). Jordan lit up the NBA like no other. He has the titles, MVP's and records to back it up.  He also had this thing about him when he played ... your team would lose and his would win. It was hard growing up in the 90's as anything but a Bulls fan.
  
Remember how Michael Jordan quit basketball in the mid 90's to pursue baseball?  BASEBALL! He played for a minor league team, I believe it was the Chicago White Sox. Let's just say that no one wanted "To be like Mike" when he wore spikes.  On the wood Jordan couldn't be stopped. On the diamond, he couldn't get going. He found out that he needed to stick to what he did best, crushing people in a game of hoops.

See, for some reason we learn how to get A's when we are little and once we do, we are afraid to do anything outside of the box. The reason is because we just want an A.  So we get all the instructions out for our science project and follow all the rules.  Then on the day of the fair, we create the same stale volcano that all the other kids made too.  Forget that.  Forget the volcano. Turn the school into a flying object or something awesome.  Sure, you might flunk and get sent home to get evaluated, but people will have to pick up their jaws when you are done. And that my friend, is the type of person you should endeavor to be. 

And If you think that I am off my rocker a bit, I'd just have you turn to First Peter 2:9 where the apostle teaches that God's people are called to be, "a peculiar people."  

 
SO, you see, Yes, I am unbalanced and I like it that way.
I am the nail that continues to stick out ... but I've got an inkling that you already knew that.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

No Excuse Sir

In the fall of 1971, Bob McDonald joined the US military Academy at West Point, New York.  Bob learned quickly there are only four acceptable responses when addressed by a superior officer: yes sir, no sir, I don't understand sir, and no excuse sir.  

As Bob explains, imagine I shined my shoes, my trousers pressed, and I go out to formation.  While in line, one of my classmates rushes past and steps in a puddle, splashing mud all over my shoes and trousers.  Then an upperclassman walks by and notices. "McDonald, why are you in formation with mud all over your shoes and trousers?

As a West Point Cadet, I can go through all for possible answers in my head, "yes sir" would restate the obvious, "no sir" would not fit, and "I don't understand sir" would make me look senseless. The only answer I had left was the fourth one, and it's the most powerful one of all, "No excuse Sir."
Even though something happened to me that was outside my control, I wasn't supposed to make any excuses. I was supposed to say, "No excuse, Sir." "It won't happen again." That's how the West Point Cadet takes responsibility and forms character.


Speaking of government agencies, there was a great King in the Old Testament named David. David had his ups and downs as a leader, from slaying the giant Goliath to committing adultery with Bathsheba. However, something peculiar in his narrative connects to the story above. We pick up the story at the end of 2 Samuel after David takes a census (which he was directly told not to do). 
Here is the account recorded, "So the Lord sent a pestilence upon Israel from the morning until the appointed time, and seventy thousand men of the people from Dan to Beersheba died. When the angel stretched out his hand toward Jerusalem to destroy it, the Lord relented from the calamity and said to the angel who destroyed the people, “It is enough! Now relax your hand!” And the angel of the Lord was by the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. Then David spoke to the Lord when he saw the angel who was striking down the people, and said, Behold, it is I who have sinned, and it is I who have done wrong; but these sheep, what have they done? Please let Your hand be against me and against my father’s house.”

And there it is folks.
David was tired of looking out the window of his palace to find someone else to blame; instead he peered into the mirror and took personal responsibility. "No excuses, sir" was the great King's reply. This, I believe represented a real shift in David's life. No longer was he the man that was trying to squirm out of his wrongs, somewhere along the line he had developed broad shoulders of character and quit the blame game. Troubled actor Tom Sizemore had a similar realization too when he said, "I used to blame my problems on other people. But my moment of clarity, if you want to call it that, came when I was looking in the mirror one day and just burst into tears. It wasn't just that I looked bad, it was that I knew my problem was me."

Blame shifting will only get you so far, so quit shifting the monkey and take responsibility for your life. 

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

My Father's Eyes

I heard a song in church yesterday titled, “Father’s Eyes.”
Below are some of the lyrics ...

“I may not be every mother's dream for her little girl
And my face may not grace the mind of everyone in the world
But that's all right as long as I can have one wish I pray
When people look inside my life, I want to hear them say
She's got her Father's eyes, her Father's eyes
Eyes that find the good in things
When good is not around
Eyes that find the source of help
When help just can't be found
Eyes full of compassion, seeing every pain
Knowin' what you're going through, and feeling it the same
Just like my Father's eyes ... “


As I listened I thought to myself how this could be every Christian’s first prayer of the day.
Before you and I ever walk out the front door to whatever beholds us we can pray to see the world through our Father’s eyes. Imagine how you would see things differently for a moment:
-That annoying kid that keeps cutting through your yard turns into a lonely young man that needs a mentor.
-The group of trashy gals dressed inappropriately morphs into young women that need a proper identity.
-Your frazzled co-worker transforms into a tired mother that needs a hug.

In the New Testament book of Ephesians, Paul is writing the church in Ephesus and tells them that, “I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace which was given to me according to the working of His power.” This may not strike you at first, but I want to you re-read the passage with an eye on 4 simple words: GIFT OF GOD’S GRACE. There it is. The ultimate perspective change. Before Paul was the Apostle Paul, he was Saul the persecutor (See book of Acts, chapter 7 & 8). Paul met Jesus on the Damascus road and had a radical worldview shift. He met the risen Christ and immediately started seeing through his Father’s eyes. Paul could never be the same thereafter, his life was totally devoted to knowing Christ and helping others discover a new set of eyes.

What about you? Whose eyes do you see through? Do you have your Father’s eyes?
If this is something that interests you, I’d like to take a second and invite you to Faith Presbyterian Church on Sunday morning's for worship. There, you will meet a diverse and loving group that seeks to accomplish this very task. We meet at every Sunday morning, 11a.m.  


A prayer:

“When people look inside my life, I want to hear them say
She's got her Father's eyes, her Father's eyes
Eyes that find the good in things
When good is not around
Eyes that find the source of help
When help just can't be found
Eyes full of compassion, seeing every pain
Knowin' what you're going through, and feeling it the same
Just like my Father's eyes ..."




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