No More More

When I first came to the Lord in 1973. I was on fire as I discovered many spiritual things I had never known before. One of those areas I discovered was the joy of giving. I was earning $600 per month (which is about $3600 in today's terms) and the day I got paid, I would pay my rent, my car, buy some food, support a few orphans overseas, and gave the rest of the money away—the day I got paid. Then I would live by faith for two weeks until I got paid again. I was happy and I learned so much about myself and the Lord.

Now fast forward 50 years later and I am still learning many spiritual things but I am not so much on fire any longer. While I am at home reflecting on pandemic lessons, I have two cars in the garage (we only need one right now) with full gas tanks, and a closet full of clothes—but I have no place to go. And I am reflecting on how I used to live and how I live now.

Then someone called me the other day and said, "I have some money in the bank and it's' not doing me Screen Shot 2020-05-08 at 7.43.11 PM any good there. I want to give it to you for your work in Kenya." It is not a small amount and I was blessed and exhilarated for what the money will do, but then again, I thought of my current lifestyle and how I used to live. When I apply that to our culture at large, it made me think of something I read in Fast Company Magazine the other day in an article titled "For Weaving The Clothing Industry into the Circular Economy":

For decades, Americans have had an insatiable appetite for new clothing's spurred on by the fast-fashion industry, which cranked out cheap, disposable garments that helped global clothing production double from 50 billion items a year in 2000 to more than 100 billion today (There are only 7.8 billion humans on the planet) (March/April 2020 edition).

The article went on to describe the environmental impact to the production of that much clothing and it is staggering, but can you imagine one hundred billion pieces of clothing in just one year? Is there any doubt that part of the message of this latest crisis is that more is not better, is not sustainable, and is an enemy of the words of Jesus that warned us about the addiction to more?

Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’ “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God" (Luke 12:13-21).

In this context, Jesus equated more with the concept of greed, but more sounds better than greed. In this season of less, God is reminding us that more, or faster, or cheaper, or new is not always better. I  for one know I have had an attitude adjustment while sheltering at home that will carry into the new normal.

Yesterday, we went to a store and had to stand in a long line after some of the things we wanted were out of stock. It seems that there will be much more of that (waiting and doing without) to come but that's a good thing, if it will help us get back to what I knew in 1973. There is more joy in giving and more comfort in trusting the Lord than more in our bank accounts, wealth, or retirement funds. The article and the person who called to donate the money have reinforced in my mind the idea that this season can be of great benefit to us as the people of God if we realize how deeply we got sucked into more and how much freedom there is to establish that there is no more more.

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Life Matter: Remember

"He turned the sea into dry land,
    they passed through the waters on foot—
    come, let us rejoice in him" - Psalm 66:6.

When the psalmist wrote this psalm, Israel was in trouble, scattered and in exile. As he reflected on their condition, he decided to remember the past works of God to help Israel rejoice where they were. You would do well to do the same thing. When you reflect on God's past goodness and mercy, it encourages you and gives you hope that God will once again more miraculously on your behalf. In the book of Deuteronomy, the Lord commanded Israel to "remember" what He had done 16 times, and here is one example: "Remember the days of old; consider the generations long past. Ask your father and he will tell you, your elders, and they will explain to you" (Deuteronomy 32:7). Spend some time today remembering what God has done for you. Talk about it, write about it, tell others about it. Allow the past to lift your spirits today as you reflect on God's track record of goodness to you.

Today's reading - Psalms 66-70

W50D3 - Attitude

"Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save. When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing. Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God" - Psalm 146:3-5.

No matter how great or successful leaders are, the nature of change along with their own limitation and mortality set boundaries for their effectiveness. Business and culture change while new opportunities arise that require that leaders move on or surrender roles to which they have become accustomed. Then there are times when leaders fall ill, are injured, and even encounter the ultimate transition when they pass into God's presence. Leaders should carry that attitude of urgency in finding and training their replacement in everything they do so that both the work of their business or ministry can continue seamlessly. They should also guard against the attitude that they own their position, beginning to think they will do it foreverwhen today may be their last day.

LEADERSHIP STEP: Your Step today is to create a sense of urgency in finding and training replacements for who you are and what you do. If you got sick tomorrow (God forbid) and could not work for three months, what would happen in your organization? Who would and could step into your role? If there is no one, then your Step today is to give this some thought and set in motion a contingency plan of what you would do if you had to be gone for three monthsor longer.

W47D3 - Attitude

"For the Israelites will live many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred stones, without ephod or household gods" - Hosea 3:4.

This verse contains a pronouncement of judgment by the prophet, declaring that Israel would have to function for many days without any leadership. God is a leadership God—He works through leadership, speaks to leadership, gives visions and dreams to leadership, and judges leadership, holding them accountable for what they do, say, don't do, and don't say. Leadership must have the attitude that they serve as leaders by God's choice (not because of their worthiness), do so willingly, continuously work to grow and develop, and accept that they will be held accountable to represent God by doing His will and manifesting His preferred attitudes and behaviors. That awareness can prevent leaders from building their own kingdoms while adopting arrogant and prideful attitudes, infatuated with their own power and position..

LEADERSHIP STEP: Your Step today is to understand that you are leading by God's choice and you are therefore God's gift to your organization or family in that capacity. That means you must humble yourself and learn about leadership from God's perspective. Identify a leadership book today—not necessarily a Christian one—and commit to read it before year's end. Then find another one and keep on learning and growing to be the best leader God had in mind for you to be.

W40D3 - Attitude

"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go" - Joshua 1:9.

The Lord spoke to Joshua and warned and commanded him to be strong and courageous and not to be afraid. Of course that meant that Joshua was going to encounter many obstacles and enemies that would tempt him to lose strength and to fear. The main reason God told Joshua not to fear is that God Himself was with Joshua wherever he went, and God plus one other person always constitutes a majority. However, when God tells someone not to fear, it is usually too late, and He is really telling them to move past their fears. All leaders must learn how to manage their fear and muster courage, which must function not in the absence of fear but in the midst and in spite of fear.

LEADERSHIP STEP: Your Step today is to see where fear is overruling courage in your life. Are you afraid to make a personnel change because it may get ugly? Are you afraid to make a decision, so you settle for the status quo, which is really a decision not to decide? Do you live in fear of losing your job, so you play it safe and remain indecisive? Do you fear the criticism that is sure to come as you lead? Does it help to remember that God is with you wherever you go?

W35D3 - Attitude

"He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me" - Colossians 1:28-29.

Paul knew his purpose and mission in life, which was to establish the church of Christ among the Gentiles. He had a clear vision of what he was trying to produce in those believers and he knew his strategy of how to achieve his objective. The key for today is verse 29, in which Paul indicated his attitude toward his work: he did it with great energy and effort, not waiting for it to happen but pressing forward to help make it happen. Leaders would do well to emulate Paul's focus, purpose, and attitude of actively and 'strenuously' working for the cause which God had assigned him.

LEADERSHIP STEP: Your job is not simply to maintain but to lead with purpose, and if your attitude is holding you back, it's time to adjust your attitudeor your work. What is your attitude toward the work you are doing? Your Step today is to ponder that question. Do you have a positive attitude toward your work? Are you actively engaged or is fear holding you back? Do you love your work or is your attitude and energy level telling you it's time to look for another opportunity?

W30D3 - Attitude

"If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me" - 1 Corinthians 9:17.

When you replace 'preach' with 'lead' in today's verse provides a new perspective on leadership. The age-old question of whether leaders are born or made is changed to whether or not leaders are called to lead. When leaders lead, they are fulfilling a mandate or assignment from the Lord, regardless of whether they head a Fortune 500 company or their garden club. In the context of this verse, leadership is its own reward—the knowledge of being used by God for a unique role and purpose. If nothing else, leadership is fulfilling an opportunity God assigns and provides the leader to fulfill and complete. Thus, leaders do not lead for what they can get - although there are rewards—but for what God has called and singled them out to do.

LEADERSHIP STEP: Are you leading voluntarily? Do you see your leadership role as a duty or a calling—or both? Today's Step is to examine your attitude toward your leadership, whether you are leading now or preparing to lead in the future. Are you protecting yourself from hurt or criticism by 'laying low' or are you actively engaging opportunities to lead? Do you see that when you lead others, you serve the Lord regardless of how well or poorly they receive or treat you when you lead?

W25D3 - Attitude

"Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body is done with sin" - 1 Peter 4:10.

Peter Drucker. father of modern management studies, once said that leadership's effectiveness is often determined in part by their ability to endure pain and suffering and still lead. Leadership can indeed be a painful experience, for leaders must deal regularly with the uncertainties of life and business, the fickleness of employees and customers, and the nature of leading that makes them targets for criticism, competition, and people who chafe under anyone's authority. This is where Jesus can especially help leaders, for He certainly understands what it is like to suffer and not respond, but rather stay the course with exceptional focus that produced excellent leadership.

LEADERSHIP STEP: How is your attitude toward suffering? Are you bearing up under the pain of leadership and still leading? Your Leadership Step today is to search your heart and see if any bitterness has crept in toward anyone who has betrayed or offended you in your work (or family) and if that has caused you to retreat as a means of self-protection. If you have, then forgive them (perhaps even setting up a meeting with them), ask God to forgive you, and get back to being a leader.

W20D3 - Attitude

"For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart" - Hebrews 4:12.

It is remarkable that a book written thousands of years ago is still 'powerful' enough today to evaluate a leader's thoughts and attitudes. Of course, that is because the Author of that Book is still alive, standing behind the words written to direct, convict, inspire, confront, and encourage those who submit to Him and the words in His Book. What's more, this book doesn't only judge and direct actions, it also analyzes hidden heart matters like attitude, beliefs, and emotions. All leaders enhance their leadership when they not only study economics, accounting, strategy and change tactics, but also have a regular reading and study program focusing on God's word, which has much to say about money, relationships, and business ethics.

LEADERSHIP STEP: What is your relationahip like with God's word at this point in your leadership life? Your Step today is to evaluate whether or not you are learning and growing in the knowledge of God's word. Then you must identify a reading program, study group, coursework, or some other way to become more  knowledgable and intimate with the Bible. Your goal is not just to learn about it, but to allow the Word to shape and guide your attitude, behavior toward others, and leadership decisions.

W15D3 - Attitude

"You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds . . ." - Ephesians 4:22-23.

Leaders transform themselves when they develop a new attitude toward their supervisors, peers, customers, work and its responsibilities, salary, or anything else that happens to part of their work experience. To change, they must recognize they have a bad attitude or else that attitude deceives them either into thinking no one notices or causes them to do things not in their best interests or those of the organization. When they are deceived, they operate out of what's called their shadow side, which is often functioning without them being aware of it or its effects on those around them through anger, cynicism, sarcasm, aggressiveness, or bitterness.

LEADERSHIP STEP: Today you will work on being aware of your attitudes at work or home. You will do this by being aware of your thought life and what makes you angry. Are you angry when you drive? Avoiding someone or something at work? Spending undue time dwelling on a mistake or another person? Keep a written account of all things that make you angry or consume your thoughts today; then look for clues about your attitude toward those things. Once you identify the attitude, get to work to change itand thus change yourself. (If you are brave enough, ask others if there is a shadow side of you and heed their responses.)