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February 2007
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April 2007

Latest Book Review

I just finished Marshall Goldsmith's book entitled What Got You Here Won't Get You There.  I used to read Marshall's material when I was more involved with Peter Drucker's world, for Marshall was on the Drucker board and contributed regularly to Leader to Leader magazine.

I wasn't sure what to expect from this book, but I enjoyed it and found it helpful.  Marshall is a big proponent of the 360-degree assessment, which gives an executive anonymous feedback from people from every area of his life including family.  In this book, he basically talked about the need for leaders to be coached out of their bad habits and into new, more productive behavior.

I always find it interesting when non-Christian material focuses on Christian values like love, humility and discipline.  Goldsmith tells leaders in this book that, when they receive feedback on how to improve or concerning some weakness, they should "shut up and say thank you."  Meanwhile, most Christian leadership material would tell those trying to give such feedback to "shut up and touch not God's anointed."  That's why I read a lot more secular leadership books than so-called Christian. 

If you are looking for a book that gives practical advice on how to change your work or ministry behavior for the better, I would recommend this book.  Marshall certainly has the credentials as an executive coach and delivers some practical wisdom that will make you more effective. 

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Why Are You Afraid?

There was a movement of sorts a few years ago that asked, "What Would Jesus Do?"  It spawned a line of tshirts and jewelry with the WWJD acronym.  Then I saw a book by a nutritional medical doctor with the title "What Would Jesus Eat?"  I had the idea to launch a movement posing the question, "What Would Jesus Ask?"  Since Jesus posed so many questions that are recorded in the gospels, I think the movement could be significant but much more challenging than the two movements mentioned above.

When you examine His ministry, Jesus did ask a lot of questions?  They were an important part of His teaching style.  But His questions weren't just provocative or creative, they pointed people to a some spiritual condition that needed to be addressed.

For instance, one question I have been pondering lately is:

"'You of little faith, why are you so afraid?'  Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm" (Matthew 8:26).

Why am I so afraid?  God is in control, yet I fret and worry and they lead me to fear.  Fear then cripples my decision-making ability and I don't do things I should do, that God wants me to do, because I am afraid. 

Why are you so afraid?  I have noticed that the questions Jesus asked were provocative and could not always be answered immediately.  So why not ponder this question and, if it will help, write me with your conclusions?  Writing it may help you and it could give others more to think about as they try to answer the question for themselves.

We will continue to examine other questions that Jesus asked in days to come.  This is still in line with becoming a better listener.  I have found that people who are poor listeners to others are also poor listeners where God is concerned.  Your ability to hold a question and seek the answer will make you a more effective servant-leader as you work with people.  I'll explain why more fully in the days to come.


Charisma Magazine

I have an article in the lastest issue (April) of Charisma magazine entitled How to Finish Strong.  You can access part of the article at the magazine's site or look for a copy in your local Christian bookstore.  If you can't get a copy, email me and I will send you one. 

I love to write and I already got an email concerning the article from a woman here in the States.  Remember how I wrote a few weeks ago that I write in part so I can receive mail.  It's working!


Listening

I got back last night from my visit to Seattle and Dallas.  It was a great trip.  I love both cities and have been to both enough times that I know my way around.  In other words, I know where to shop, sleep and eat.  It's halibut and crab season in Seattle, so the restaurants had some great fish specials. 

It was great to reconnect with my friends at The Pacific Institute and to have dinner with my friend, Sheila Hunt from Arkansas, who attended their four-day seminar.  I also had a chance to work with Tom Deuschle, my pastor friend from Zimbabwe, before he returns to Zimbabwe next Wednesday.  And now I am back in Pittsburgh for a few days and spring is just around the corner. 

If you do any reading or study concerning servant-leadership, you will know that listening is one of the key characteristics of an effective listener.  Robert Greenleaf, father of the modern servant-leader teaching, wrote: 

"Listening, coupled with regular periods of reflection, are essential to the growth of the servant leader . . . . The most successful servant-leaders are those who have become skilled empathetic listeners."

Stephen Covey wrote:

"Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply. . . . The essence of empathetic listening is not that you agree with someone; it's that you fully, deeply understand that person, emotionally as well as intellectually."

So how good of a listener are you?  Part of the listening process is asking good questions that enable you to probe what someone is saying for hidden meaning and clarity.  One of the most effective servant-leaders ever was Jesus.  It's no surprise that He addressed the issue of listening when He taught.  It's also no surprise that He regularly asked good questions. 

In the next few posts, I want to look at some of what Jesus had to say about listening and study some of the questions He asked so that you can be a more effective listener.  Sound good?  I hope so. 

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Open My Eyes 4

I want to mention one more example of someone having an eye-opening experience in the Bible and that is found in the New Testament in Luke 24:13-35.  There we find the account of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus.  While they were walking, a man joined them and asked them about the state of events, and they recounted Jesus' death and expressed their disappointment at what had taken place.

They thought that Jesus was a visitor to Jerusalem and were amazed that He asked such questions, for everyone must have known about Jesus' death.  When the disciples finished, Jesus began to explain what had happened to Him and why it happened from a biblical perspective. 

When Jesus acted like he was going to walk on, the men insisted that He stay and break bread with them, still not knowing who He was.  When Jesus gave thanks and broke bread, it says, "Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight" (Luke 24:31).  I love what the next verse says, "They asked each other, 'Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?'" (Luke 24:32). 

How often Jesus has been walking with me and I didn't recognize Him, especially when I was downcast like those disciples were.  How often I have turned to the Word for understanding and found it and more. How often I have needed Him to open my eyes and, once He has opened them to see the reality of what He was doing, He has "disappeared" -- the test or challenge was over because I saw what I needed to see.

These disciples were true to their principles of hospitality even when they were confused and forlorn.  They thought they were walking home but they were really on a journey with Jesus.  Is that your situation?  Are you tired, confused or bored?  Are you despondent?  You may not need for your circumstances to change, but rather for your view of those circumstances to change.  When these men had their eyes opened, they retraced their steps back to Jerusalem to spread the good news.  When your eyes are opened to see the reality of your situation, you will do the same.

So now I hope you understand why one of my favorite prayers is "Lord, open my eyes to see what I'm not seeing here."  It's a good prayer to pray and I hope you will add it to your own list of prayers.  If you have any stories of how that prayer was answered, please feel free to post it on the site where this entry can be found.

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Feel free to post your comments or related stories on the site where this entry is posted.  You can also subscribe there to automatically receive these entries as I write them. 

You can read or subscribe to my weekly email, The Monday Memo, on the site where it is posted.  You can also read or subscribe to my weekly Bible study at its home site.  We are currently studying Mark's gospel.

Finally, please remember PurposeQuest and the Stankos in your missions giving

Here is my itinerary for the next few months:

  • April 2-3 -- Mobile, Alabama
  • April 4 -- Virginia Beach
  • April 5 -- Nashville
  • April 24-29 -- England
  • April 30-May 7 -- Nairobi, Kenya
  • May 8-June 30 -- Zimbabwe

Let me know if I can help you with your PurposeQuest when I come to your area.


A Good Week

I have been coming to Dallas for six years now and this was the best business week I've ever had here, or anywhere for that matter.  I worked with three companies, profiled 30 people, taught two nights at a church and was in a flow of work and purpose that was energizing.  I left the house every day at 7:30 AM and didn't return until 10 or 11 at night.  It was great and I thank God for the doors that were opened to me.

Yesterday I flew up to Seattle and will speak at Real Life Church in Maple Valley today.  After I finish there, I will take in the Seattle Sonics and San Antonio Spurs NBA game. Then I will spend a few days with my friends at The Pacific Institute and hook up with another friend, Tom Deuschle, before he heads back to Zimbabwe.  I get home to Pittsburgh through Dallas on Wednesday.

I am flying American Airlines this week.  My only complaint against them is that they partner with my nemesis in travel, British Airways.  I hope what BA has isn't contagious so they don't infect American with their condescending ways.  BA sent me a customer survey this week to complete.  I'm waiting until I'm in a foul, vindictive mood before I fill it out.  Repeat after me, "Stay a-way from B-A!"


Open My Eyes 3

My favorite eye-opening story in the Bible is found in 2 Kings 6.  There we find Israel at war with the king of Aram.  Elisha the prophet consistently warned the king of Israel of the intentions of his enemy, so much so that the king of Aram was convinced that there was a spy in his midst.  He was assured that there was no spy, just an accurate prophet:

"But Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the very words you speak in your bedroom" (2 Kings 6:12).

When informed of this, the king sent a troop of soldiers to find and apprehend Elisha.  One morning, Gehazi, Elisha's assistant went outside only to find that they were surrounded by their enemies.  Gehazi panicked and asked Elisha, "'Oh, my lord, what shall we do?' the servant asked" (2 Kings 6:15).

Elisha remained cool and declared that there was nothing to worry about, for "Those who are with us are more than those who are with them" (2 Kings 6:16).  Then Elisha prayed but not for protection, not for friendly troops to rescue them, and not for the defeat of their enemies.  Instead he prayed, "O Lord, open his eyes so he may see" (2 Kings 6:17).

You probably don't need to have your circumstances change, although that may seem to be your most pressing need.  Rather you may need to have how you see your circumstances change.  Remember what I wrote when we first began this series:  When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.

Why not pray Elisha's prayer today concerning your dilemma or greatest challenge.  Ask God to open your eyes so that you can see. Can you see how this will help you with your relationships, business or ministry?   It will change the way you approach your problem when you accurately see and understand that problem from God's perspective. In fact, you may see that you don't have a problem at all but a wonderful opportunity to trust God and learn. 


Open My Eyes 2

Did you ever wonder what Jesus meant when He made this statement?

"Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad" (John 8:56).

What did Abraham see when he saw Jesus' day?  For the answer, we must go to Genesis 22 and look at the story of Abraham sacrificing Isaac.

As Abraham had the knife raised to obey God's command to sacrifice Isaac, a voice from heaven stopped him.  Abraham was commended for his obedience and then an interesting thing happened.  Abraham looked over and saw a ram caught in the thicket.  He took that ram and sacrificed it in place of his son, Isaac. 

Most people would only have seen a ram, but Abraham saw, in my opinion, the day of the Lord to which Jesus referred. Abraham saw the ram and realized that the ram was there as a substitute sacrifice for Isaac.  God opened his eyes to see that one day God would provide a sacrifice for all mankind through the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ.  It was at that point that Abraham gave God the name Jehovah Jireh, which means "the Lord will provide."

Most have taken this name to mean that God will provide for our needs.  While God does meet our needs, that isn't what Jehovah Jireh means.  It refers to seeing what God is doing for Himself, for His own purposes.  It is so critical that we see and understand, as best we can, what God is doing in any given situation. For that to happen, He must open our eyes to see reality from His perspective.

I don't want to see a ram when there is more to see and understand.  That's why I always pray, "Lord, open my eyes to see what I'm not seeing.  Don't let me miss your purpose in this present situation."  Do you need to pray that prayer where your family, relationships or business are concerned?  If you do, then you're in good company, for we all need to do that.  Don't put it off another day.  Ask and believe that you will see.  Then you will join with Abraham in seeing the day of the Lord, a day to which most others around you are blind.


Amazing Grace

My wife and I had the opportunity yesterday to see the movie, Amazing Grace, the story of William Wilberforce and the successful battle he waged to end slavery in the British Empire. Since most of the movie was made up of dialog around the issue of abolition, the movie relies on the acting, since there is no "action" to speak of.  I think the actors delivered on what they had to do.

The movie accurately depicts Wilberforce's faith as the motivating factor in his crusade and the dialog is openly Christian and God-focused. The film runs two hours, so it may be a little long, but the theme and the price Wilberforce paid to see his cause through to the end are gripping.  I would strongly recommend seeing this movie.  You had better hurry, however, for it won't be around for long.

One interesting thread in the story is Wilberforce's relationship with John Newton, former slave ship captain and author of the song Amazing Grace.  Newton is played by Albert Finney, who turns in a strong performance. 

As the world remembers what Wilberforce did 200 years ago this year, it would be good to read up on his remarkable career.  It is also a good time to ask if there is any contribution that you need to make to your generation like Wilberforce did to his.  If there is, what are you doing to see it take place?

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Open My Eyes 1

One of my favorite prayers is "Open my eyes, Lord, so that I can see what I can't see, what I'm not seeing here."  It is a known fact that we cannot see or hear everything that is going on around us, but that doesn't mean that things aren't happening.  What's more, I often have blind spots to the reality around me due to bias, busy-ness, or faulty thinking or evaluation concerning what I see and hear. 

One of the first examples of God opening someone's eyes to see what they could not see was Hagar, Abraham's maid.  Hagar had a child to Abraham since Abraham was childless (Don't worry, Abraham's wife Sarah, approved of this at first).  When the child, Ishmael, got older, however, and Abraham had a son of his own to Sarah, Sarah changed her mind and forced Abraham to evict Hagar and her son.  When the eye-opening story begins, we see Hagar sitting in the desert, alone and forlorn:

Early the next morning Abraham took some food and a skin of water and gave them to Hagar. He set them on her shoulders and then sent her off with the boy. She went on her way and wandered in the desert of Beersheba. When the water in the skin was gone, she put the boy under one of the bushes. Then she went off and sat down nearby, about a bow shot away, for she thought, "I cannot watch the boy die." And as she sat there nearby, she began to sob (Genesis 21:14-16). 

Hagar thought what I have thought many times:  It's over.  There's no use.  I can't make it.

It was then that God intervened and saved her and the boy. 

God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, "What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation." Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. So she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink (Genesis 21:17-19 emphasis added). 

Hagar thought they were dead but God opened her eyes to an oasis that was nearby.  Hagar couldn't see the oasis because she was sad, because she thought she knew everything about her situation and environment that there was to know.  She was in the desert, they were out of water and in trouble.  Yet Hagar didn't see it all; she was missing one important factor that changed everything--there was on oasis nearby.

Is that your situation?  Do you think you are "dead" only to be missing a major source, an oasis, near where you are today?  Don't spend time fretting over your situation.  Spend time seeking what you can't see, that one idea, perspective or relationship that is right in front of you, that one thing that can change your situation from despair to hope. 

Someone said, "When we change the way we look at things, the things we look at change."  Ask God to help you change the way you look at things today, even your desperate situation, and you just may see your situation change. 

Stay tuned, there's more to come in the coming days on this topic. 

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Feel free to post your comments or related stories on the site where this entry is posted.  You can also subsribe there to automatically receive these entries as I write them. 

You can read or subscribe to my weekly email, The Monday Memo, on the site where it is posted.  You can also read or subscribe to my weekly Bible study at its home site.  We are currently studying Mark's gospel.

Finally, please remember PurposeQuest and the Stankos in your missions giving

Here is my itinerary for the next few months:

  • March 18-24 -- Dallas, Texas
  • March 25-27 -- Seattle, Washington
  • April 24-29 -- England
  • April 30-May 7 -- Nairobi, Kenya
  • May 8-June 30 -- Zimbabwe

Let me know if I can help you with your PurposeQuest when I come to your area.