For Such A Time As This

“Trying Times call for tough leaders. In God’s providence, you and I were put in this moment in time and this place to live for him.”

Don’t miss the moment. Once it is gone, it is gone forever.

You are called to a Savior, a Kingdom, and a moment. What are you going to do in this moment?

For such a moment, you must lead. And lead you must. Nowhere in the Bible is cowardice or apathy rewarded. In fact, cowardice is punished (Numbers 14). Moral courage is always rewarded and blessed. Standing up for righteousness is an act of obedience.

We must recover and embrace God’s definition of ‘leadership.’

“Biblically, leadership is not someone at the top or someone out front. (A leader) is a person who takes the initiative and takes responsibility for either the opportunity or the crisis right in front of them…. That is what we must recover.”
– Os Guiness

Trying times call for tough leaders. In God’s providence, you and I were put in this moment in time and this place to live for Him. For God’s sake lead! Whether it is your family, your community, your workplace, or your church, you are called to take initiative and responsibility for the opportunity or crisis you are facing right now. If God placed the crisis or opportunity in front of you, don’t be fearful – Be faithful!

“It is going to take an enormous amount of biblical commitment, theological clarity, and individual and congregational courage to stand against the tide of the moral and ideological revolution of the culture.”
– Albert Mohler

Do not miss the moment. It has arrived.

The question is, “What are you going to do in the moment?

Reflect and meditate on the following scriptures that will challenge, equip and encourage you to lead!

“For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation….” Acts 13:36

“And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14b

“And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place…” Acts 17:26

“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son…” Galatians 4:4a

“In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:16

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10

“Those who know God’s plans are responsible to live courageously for Him.” – Dr. Bill Egner

Truth and Feelings are NOT Created Equal

Truth and Feelings are NOT Created Equal

How you or I feel about something does not indicate whether it is true or not.

“Religious man was born to be saved, psychological man is born to be pleased.”
[Philip Rieff, The Triumph of the Therapeutic: Uses of Faith after Freud]

Who hasn’t cried watching “Old Yeller” or reading “Where the Red Fern Grows?” C’mon man! Admit it, you cried your little eyes out. Just because tears and snot are flowing, does that make those stories true? Of course not, they are fiction! Our emotions don’t make something true. How you or I feel about something does not indicate whether it is true or not.

Understanding this cultural moment

Over the last 100 years, western culture has shifted away from commonly held understanding about how an individual sees himself in relationship to his society. The modern individual’s gaze is now directed inward. Modern man is a “Psychological Man on an inward quest for personal psychological happiness.” (Carl Trueman). This cultural shift did not happen over night. It’s been underway for a couple hundred years. We live in a post-modern culture where all human experience has been psychologized. The Christian nor the church is immune.

Today, many Christians place feelings (emotions) on equal footing as truth. Then, they construct a false equivalence to support their position. At best it’s mistake, at worst it’s an appeal to emotion.

“When he (Jesus) saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36)

Compassion” in the original Greek is σπλαγχνίζομαι, splanchnizomai – meaning, to have the bowels yearn, – to feel sympathy, to pity.

When emotion (e.g. compassion) is given equal footing as truth, it easily becomes a modern heresy. A psychologized hermeneutic that serves the psychological well-being of modern man results in moralistic weekly therapy sessions on Sunday mornings and we call it ‘church.’ In other words, we make the Bible all about ourselves. We unintentionally shift the story of the Bible away from God and toward ourselves to feel better about ourselves.

Truth is not an experience… Truth just is.

John 18:37 is crystal clear. Jesus was born to bear witness to the truth (not our emotions). “For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth.” The truth is Christ is King, not me.

In John 14:6, “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life…” Jesus did NOT say “I am the way, and the feeling, and the life…”

I’m convinced that Jesus “had compassion” (Mt 9:36) because he fully understood the ugly truth about sin, the fallen human condition and what he was going to do about it. His emotional reflex to reality was grounded in truth. Our emotions should be grounded in truth as well. Not the other way around. When I see a fallen situation for what it truly is, it should create in me a proportionate emotional response.

One danger we modern Christians face is unintentionally psychologizing scripture to align or validate our feelings. Then we claim “because I feel this way, this must be true!”

The good news is that we can point each other to the truth of God’s Word. His Word is the truth about reality. Nothing can or will ever change that. The truth we believe is grounded in an unchangeable God who loves us and sent His only Son to bear witness to the truth and save us from the ugly truth of sin. Jesus Christ demonstrated real and raw emotions – yet was without sin. His emotions were grounded in truth because that is who he is (he is the truth). We need to help each other remember that!

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

– John 1:14

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How The Mighty Fall – A Primer for Successful Leadership

How The Mighty Fall - A Primer on Successful Leadership

“Every institution, no matter how great, is vulnerable to decline.” – Jim Collins

As leaders of families, teams, companies, platoons, churches or any organization, learning what NOT to do is just as important as learning what to do.

“Every institution, no matter how great, is vulnerable to decline”

– Jim Collins

In 2009, Dave Ramsey and his team gifted me with a small library of leadership books. One stood out from the rest. If you walk into my home office or my office at the church or search my backpack, there is a high probability you’ll find a Bible and this one small book.

Fast forward to 2016.

I was in a conference room in Dallas with Dave Ramsey, Patrick Lencioni, Seth Godin, George W. Bush, and Jim Collins. I put a question to Jim Collins (bestselling author and speaker). “Jim, what is the best book you have written to date?” I fully expected him to reply, “Built to Last” or “Good to Great.” Both are excellent books. However, I was surprised by his answer. He replied without hesitation, “The best book I’ve written is a little book entitled “How the Mighty Fall” (2009).” Jim went on to explain that if we don’t know why and how great organizations fall, we won’t know how to make a good organization into a great organization.

As leaders of families, teams, companies, platoons, churches or any organization, learning what NOT to do is just as important as learning what to do.

Failure as a Favorite Teacher
I have a long list of failures and mistakes I’ve made in business, ministry and leadership. I call them my “playbook of what NOT to do’s.” I joke with people and say, “If you learn from all of MY mistakes and failures, you will be successful!” Failure is a better teacher than success. Just as pain is a better teacher than pleasure.

“How The Mighty Fall and Why Some Companies Never Give In” is a primer to understanding how to be a good leader of any group of people, whether a Fortune 100 Company or your family. Even when we read our Bibles, it is replete with stories of failure. Each with its own lesson to teach us in our own historical moment.
Click on chart images in this post to open in a new window and enlarge and/or download if you wish.

Pride (hubris) always marks the beginning of the fall
Proverbs 16:18 clearly states, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” This is true of individuals and organizations. Arrogance in the face of problems is incapable of seeing them in the first place. Pride blinds us to the truth. Past success does not promise future success. Failure to cultivate and renew the soils of traditions, values and competencies that led to initial success will create conditions for failure. When leaders replace “why” with “what” questions, they miss the opportunity for deeper reflection and basic understanding of why the organization was successful in the first place.

Most important of all is what Collins calls a “decline in learning orientation.”

Leaders lose the inquisitiveness and learning orientation that mark those truly great individuals who, no matter how successful they become, maintain a learning curve as steep as when they first began their careers.” (Jim Collins, p. 43).

I would add that leaders must “read widely”, not just sticking to their side on a topic or their area of expertise. Read to understand counter or competing positions. Read and learn outside your career domain. When we are lifelong learners, we understand that we never completely arrive. The more we learn the more we understand our own inadequacies and limitations – allowing humility to invade our lives.

Are you on your way up or on your way down? The dynamics of Leadership-Team bahavior chart below is a helpful tool for determining where you are headed.

In conclusion, understanding a situation is a precondition to responding appropriately to a situation. As a leader, if you misdiagnose a problem, the solutions you create will harm the organization you are leading. The Bible tells us to “know the state of our flocks.” (Proverbs 27:23)

“Every institution, no matter how great, is vulnerable to decline… By understanding the stages of decline, leaders can substantially reduce their chances of falling all the way to the bottom.” – Jim Collins

Every once in a while, I put “How the Mighty Fall” back on my bookshelf. Somehow, it makes its way back on my desk or in my backpack. I’m thankful Jim Collins wrote this little book.

Here is a link to a summary by Jim Collins….

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Faithful in the Moment

Faithful in the Moment

You are not called to worry about what others think of you. You are not called to be anxious about anything. You are called to be faithful in the moment.

Dear Christian,

It is so easy for us to allow the dizzying moments and circumstances of life to make us lose focus. We are overcome with distractions, amusements and anxious thoughts. We are vulnerable to getting lost in the moment and losing track of the bigger story we inhabit.

Remember, you are not called to worry about what others think of you. You are not called to be anxious about anything. You are called to be faithful in the moment.

You are here in the time and place God appointed for you. Be faithful in the moment. Do not worry about what is to come. Turn over your anxious thoughts and distractions to the Lord – knowing that if you are faithful to God, the result will be faithfulness in all things.

We are faithful to that which we love and worship.

Your faithfulness and dependency on God will result in all other things being properly ordered and an outflow of blessings. You will experience troubled seasons and moments, but all God expects is faithfulness in the moment. String those faithful moments together, and you will realize your part in God’s bigger story.

Pastor Alister Begg said, “We need that dimension of understanding like the men of Issachar – that we would understand the times in which we live and we would understand the God who rules over those times.”

Moments mark cultures and histories. Moments mark stories and our lives. Don’t allow dizzying moments and circumstances of life to make you lose focus. Tomorrow has worries of its own … Be faithful in THIS moment God appointed for you.

Prayer:
Lord, may I be found faithful to you in THIS moment. Ultimately, that is all you ask or want. But, I need your help do be faithful to you. Thank you for giving me an abundance of moments to be faithful. Even when I fail in one moment, there is the hope of another moment to be faithful. May I be found faithful.

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Christians and Culture – What is culture?

Christians and Culture - What is culture?

 

By design mankind is a cultural creature.

It is not who we are as much as it is what we do.

We talk about culture a lot… But, what is it?

“We must stand against the culture!”

“We must not involve ourselves in the culture!”

“Christians must engage cultural issues!”

“Christians must not get entangled in cultural issues!”

Most don’t have a clear understanding of what culture is. Most people view culture as a thing – an ‘it’. We assume we know what we’re talking about. Furthermore, when we have discussions or debates, we may not even agree on the definition of the word ‘culture’. Different people have different notions about what culture is. I spent my college years studying culture (anthropology) and I know how difficult it can be to attempt to fully understand it. Let me take a shot.

Culture is distinctly human. Animals do not create culture. It can be complex and confusing. So, let’s try to understand it.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines culture as the following: the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group; the characteristic features of everyday existence (such as diversions or a way of life) shared by people in a place or time; the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or organization; the integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behavior that depends upon the capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generations.(link)

While that definition is helpful, it does not answer the question, “Where does culture come from?” The Bible states God made humans in his image (Genesis 1:27). Bearing our Creator’s image, we humans create and inhabit culture. That is important to know as a first principle. Every human is creating and shaping culture just by living life in this world. The biblical narrative is set within cultures over history (Jewish, Egyptian, Roman, Pagan, etc). By God’s design mankind is a cultural creature. It is not who we are as much as it is what we do. It is impossible for a human not to be a cultural creature. So, let’s explore a little further.

If you want to know what water is, don’t ask the fish.” John Stonestreet once told a group of students (“A Practical Guide to Culture”, Stonestreet & Kunkle). Fish don’t know they are wet – it is the environment in which they live. Given, most analogies eventually break down. However, the fish – water analogy is a useful illustration.

Culture is “the environment we live in and think is normal” says Stonestreet. We understand it points to the fact that we’re assuming something about reality – a baseline, if you will. “This is the world and reality as we understand it” is the assumption that all people operate from and shape their lives around without even being aware.

So, what the heck is Culture?

I’m going to distill a few ideas found in Stonestreet and Kunkle’s book, “A Practical Guide to Culture” to help us. I definitely recommend reading it.

Let’s begin with what culture is NOT:

Culture is not creation (nature, plants, animals, humans, water, rocks, the sky, etc).

“Culture doesn’t just refer to all the bad stuff humans do.” (Stonestreet / Kunkle)

People are NOT culture.

“People make culture and are, in turn shaped by culture, but equating them with culture is wrong and can even be dangerous. If we see people as culture and culture as the enemy, we’ll likely see people as the enemy and confuse their bad ideas with evil intentions… Culture is NOT people, culture is what people do.” (Stonestreet / Kunkle)

So, what then is culture?

Culture comes from the Latin word cultura, meaning “agriculture” (plowing, tilling, etc).

“Culture is what humans do (activity) in the world: build, invent, create, tear down, compose, replace, embellish, engineer, assume, dismiss, emphasize, etc.” (Stonestreet / Kunkle)

“Culture is what humans make of the world,” says Andy Crouch

Ken Myers (All God’s Children and Blue Suede Shoes)
“It’s not a person. It’s not even an institution, like the church or the state or the family. It is instead a dynamic pattern, an ever-changing matrix of objects, artifacts, sounds, institutions, philosophies, fashions, enthusiasms, myths, prejudices, relationships, attitudes, tastes, rituals, habits, colors, and loves, all embodied in individual people, in groups and collectives and associations of people (many of whom do not know they are associated), in books, in buildings, in the use of time and space, in wars, in jokes, and in food.” (Stonestreet / Kunkle)

Culture is a kind of fabric produced by human activity.

Cultural forces shape our thoughts and behaviors without us even being aware.

Culture is created and cultivated for good or evil.

Everything we do or say, and the ideas we think impact culture.

Culture is a gift from God to be stewarded for goodness and his glory.

Attempting to “avoid culture” invites negative culture to fill the void.

Culture is powerful.

Culture isn’t a thing, Culture just is…..

Since humans naturally create culture, this begs the question: What kind of culture are we creating? 

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Reflections of September 11, 2002 from Ground Zero, NYC

Reflections of September 11, 2001 from Ground Zero, New York City

Today (November 11, 2005), my wife and I decided to journey to the WTC site. I was apprehensive about what I was about to experience.

Never in my life had I hated clear blue skies, but for a few moments today, I did.

Below are photos from my 2005 visit to World Trade Center site. Click to enlarge. My reflections follow the phots.

This is from my Myspace blog from Nov 12, 2005 upon my visit to NYC and Ground Zero. I decided to dig it out, reflect and repost. 

How some things change and yet some things are meant to linger…

[November 12, 2005] We’re currently in NYC. I played a DJ gig last night at Spirit (formerly Twilo).

This morning my wife and I headed down to WTC Ground Zero. I have not been to New York City since prior to September 11, 2001. Of course, like many of you, those events had a profound effect on my life. For some reason I’ve been fighting with demons in my mind from that day for a number of years.  I decided that I would lay them to rest with this visit to NYC. My trip to the Ground Zero site was more important that the gig that brought me here.

Since I found out that I would be coming to New York, I wondered how I would feel when I got down to the site. I’ve known since 9/11 that I would someday visit the place where the attacks occurred.

I have many fond memories of my visits to NYC prior to September 11, 2001.  My trips in the past have always included a visit to the World Trade Canter (WTC) and sometimes staying at the WTC Marriott. One of my best friends worked at Cantor-Fitzgerald on the 105th floor. I’ve visited him there and went to dinner at Windows On The World restaurant (107th floor) . I’ve looked out of his office window and seen helicopters hovering directly across from me. I’ve seen clear endless blue skies so brilliant that your eyes water. I’ve looked down from the 105th floor to the street below as a parade passed by. Have you ever seen a parade from above? It was amazing. Words unable to fully describe the image.

It was a great experience to share a typical Friday work day with my friend – and make some new friends along the way.  Needless to say, some of the people I met at Cantor that day are gone from this earth. I remember their faces like I remember the New York City skyline.

Fortunately, my good friend at Cantor started working else where a month prior to the attacks.

When we flew to NYC, I saw the hole in the night sky where the buildings once stood.

Today (November 11, 2005), my wife and I decided to journey to the WTC site. I was apprehensive about what I was about to experience. The streets we as I always remembered them in my many visits to NYC. I’ve been there so many times I sort of know my way around. It’s strange that this boy from Texas feels completely comfortable in NYC – just walking the streets. But this time was different. Today, I was on a pilgrimage. So, we walked slowly and silently as the city was going about its business. The deeper into lower Manhattan we walked and the closer to the WTC site we got, the quieter and slower things seemed to become.

As we turned the corner and I saw empty sky where my favorite land marks once stood. It took my breath away. It was like diving into cold water. The skies were clear and blue much like the day that I visited my friend there so many years before.  To say that it was surreal is an understatement – it was like a dream.

I felt deja vu…. but I HAD been there before. The loud streets of the city were silent as hundreds of people moved in slow motion around at the site. I tried to focus on something in the sky that had been there before. It was no longer there. I was like my memory was trying to replace the images in my mind…  I closed my eyes and could see the two giants. I wanted the giants to be there when I opened them again. I wanted everything to be the same as it was before…  I opened my eyes and I was greeted with blues skies.

Never in my life had I hated clear blue skies, but for a few moments today, I did.  I hated what those blue skies meant in that place. My two giant friends were gone.  Out of the blue skies came the attacks that toppled them and cause sane, able-bodied people to jump to their death. As I walked closer to the pit, I could feel that I was in a special place, a place were a terrible thing happen – a terrible thing that had left a wound on my soul. It still hurt every time I remember that day.

I will never forget the chill in the wind today. I’ll never forget what it felt like or what it smelled like. I walked up to the fence to see what was not there. It was strange… I stood at the fence a peered in. I was in disbelief. I was afraid and confused.  I was afraid that I was going to breakdown in front of everyone. God gave me strength as tears filled my eyes…  I had my sunglasses on, so I would be ok.  No one would know my tears. Suddenly, I felt like I was the only one there.  I was alone.  Just me and that place. It was quiet and still as the sun warmed my face in the chilled air.

I closed my eyes and saw the buildings crumbling in my mind. It was real.  I opened them and nothing. All those poor people… gone.

I was battling with my demons from September 11, 2001 in the spot where it happened. I picked the place for the fight. I had already decided that I would win. I would win it on the very spot where it began 4 years prior. I had prepared for this day. I knew it would come. I mumbled a little prayer to myself.

A cold wind hit me in the face and I was awakened, as if from a dream. I returned to reality. It was as if God had allowed me to have a moment for just me in a busy city full of people. For me to battle… To finish the fight and release the grief and anger to him. And it was a good fight. I could only imagine what my wife would be going through if we had a different life and we happened to live in New York and I worked at WTC… and went to work that day not to return. I felt so thankful when she walked over and put her hand in mine…

My life changed today. My reality changed. As we walked around the site, I noticed men working…  machinery moving earth. I noticed grass and wildflowers growing in the excavated area – life!  Life was moving. There was life in this place.  It was wonderful to see. My sadness turned to joy. I knew all was good in the hands of a good God.

I looked into the blue sky and I was thankful for its blueness.  I will never curse a blue sky again.

Sacred moments in a special place… Returning to Texas tomorrow.

-Lance

(Orignally Posted Nov 12, 2005)

VIDEO: The 9/11 Survivor Tree – The last living rescue from 9/11—a charred and battered pear tree—has been recovering at a Bronx nursery. Now, it’s finally returning home.

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