Friday, May 30, 2014

Almost Perfect

‘Mature’ is one of those words that has a lot of different meanings depending on the context.   For example, while teaching at Florida Atlantic University I was asked to speak to the “Mature Student Association” and found out that the university defined ‘mature’ as over twenty-five.

Here in Florida we have a number of ‘Mature Residential Communities’ that feature swimming pools, athletic facilities, gated entrances and people that are all 55+ years old.

Sometimes a television show will come on with a warning, “Recommended for mature audiences”.  This typically means it is a movie that the spiritual mature probably have learned to avoid.

In the Bible maturity is considering something altogether different.  It really has nothing to do with age.  The writer of the New Testament Epistle entitled “To The Hebrews” wrote:

"Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment," (Heb. 6:1-2).

What I find interesting about these elementary teachings is that for many of us they aren’t elementary at all but things that theologians and even entire denominations have argued about for years.    Historically we know that the early church that received this letter called “To the Hebrews” also had questions with regard to some of these doctrinal  issues.  This leads us to the conclusion that being spiritually mature is not about having doctrinal certainty.

However what I find even more interesting is this encouragement to go on to ‘maturity’.  This word in the original Greek is teleiotes, which can be better translated as ‘perfection’.  Here is another example of the same word, “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect (teleiotes) it until the day of Christ Jesus." (Phil 1:6)

So we are being told to become---perfect!  Likely you don’t consider yourself perfect.   While we may not be perfect, we all need to grow.   One of the ways to look at this is to look at what happens when we don’t grow spiritually.  

Perhaps you can relate to these common characteristics of the spiritually immature:

  1. The spiritually immature is focused on themselves rather than others.  We all can relate.  These people believe prayer is their connection to their own lottery; they ask God to get them out of trouble and fix the problems that they themselves have created.   When they select a church its all about the church meeting their needs.

  2. The spiritually immature is trying to hold on to the ‘old self’.  As a pastor I often end up talking with people that are still struggling with the old self. In Galatians Chapter 5 it mentions some or these struggles, “Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like”

  3. The spiritually immature compares and measures themselves according to people rather than Christ.  While the Apostle Paul was able to say, “I urge you to imitate me” (1 Cor 4) for most of us we need to encourage others to look to “Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith” (Heb. 12:2)

So, we may be able to spot the immature, but how do we go onto maturity, or better yet, “perfection”?  

Here are three nature steps:

  1. Know God.  This includes the practice of prayer and worship and the knowledge of God’s Grace. 
  2. Know His Word. The Bible says we need to study to be approved (2 Tim 2:5), and we are to keep God’s word in our heart (Psalm 119:11)
  3. Know His Family.  We all need to be under some authority.  The same book of Hebrews says that we shouldn’t “forsake the assembling of yourselves (Hebrews 10:25), and then Acts 2:42 we see just how committed we can be: “They continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers".

I have found that just as it takes years for us to grow to adulthood the journey to spiritual maturity often takes years as well.   The Bible often refers to mature Christians as fruit.   Fruit, like people, only becomes reproductive when it ripens….it takes time. 

However, like fruit, we don’t want to get too ripe, perhaps you’ve met some Christians that have matured but are a little too ripe…..ripe fruit is rotten and stinks.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Memorial Day and Remembrance

My grandparents called Memorial Day Decoration Day.   Memorial Day dates back to 3 years after the Civil War (before their time) when the head of an organization of Union veterans established Decoration Day as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers.  It is believed that date of May 30th was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the country. 

Another interesting story of the origination of Memorial Day is that African Americans, all former slaves, founded Decoration Day at the graveyard of 257 Union soldiers labeled "Martyrs of the Race Course," a few years earlier in Charleston, SC. 

Regardless of the actual beginning for all Americans Memorial Day is a great day to remember those that have made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of their country.   This day is a holiday, a day of remembrance, a day to remember "lest we forget".

I remember the very first Men's Study that I participated included a book called “The 12 Stones” and was a study of the book of Joshua.  This is why it was called the "12 Stones" 
4 When all the people had crossed the Jordan, the LORD said to Joshua, 2 “Now choose twelve men, one from each tribe. 3 Tell them, ‘Take twelve stones from the very place where the priests are standing in the middle of the Jordan. Carry them out and pile them up at the place where you will camp tonight.’”4 So Joshua called together the twelve men he had chosen—one from each of the tribes of Israel. 5 He told them, “Go into the middle of the Jordan, in front of the Ark of the LORD your God. Each of you must pick up one stone and carry it out on your shoulder—twelve stones in all, one for each of the twelve tribes of Israel. 6 We will use these stones to build a memorial. In the future your children will ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ 7 Then you can tell them, ‘They remind us that the Jordan River stopped flowing when the Ark of the LORD’s Covenant went across.’ These stones will stand as a memorial among the people of Israel forever.” (Joshua 4:4-7)
These stones that Joshua had been told to assemble were memorials.  It was a reminder to the people that God had done something amazing, that the Jordan River had been stopped for the 12 tribes of Israel to cross over. 

When our two kids were very young my wife bought a book written by Shirley Dobson and Gloria Gaither called, “Let’s make a memory”.   These two women encouraged young moms to be sure to make memories, create traditions for the family that the children would remember.  To this day (and my daughter recently confirmed) the kids remember going out to breakfast the first day of school and dad's famous ‘egg sausage souffle’ on Christmas morning.   

The great memories and traditions are like vacation souvenirs without the dust.

The Bible has more to say about making memories
Deuteronomy 4:9: "But take care and watch yourselves closely, so as neither to forget the things that your eyes have seen nor to let them slip from your mind all the days of our your life; make them known to your children and your children's children." 
I've had a little time to think about it and likely there are three really good reasons that we are reminded to remember..
  1. Traditions, memories and memorials help us remember the past.   The significant milestones. including graduations, the birth of children, family vacations, holidays…all help us remember the blessings and good times.  Even the scars on our hands and knees, the previous wounds that have healed help remind us of faithfulness, our healing and restoration.  These all represent and remind us of both the good and the bad that make us who we are
  2. Remembering keeps us grounded in the present.   One of the more common movie and TV plots are protraying people with amnesia.  It's always amusing to see all of the problems they get into.  Our remembering keeps us present.  We all have tasks to accomplish, friends and colleagues we interact with daily and much that needs to be accomplished.  We need to remember who we are and what we are called to do.
  3. Remembering the past and being grounded in the present keeps us focused on our future.   All of us are headed towards eternity and keeping that in focus provides clarity and comfort in the present.    I remember my first trip to Europe,  I didn’t get to fly business class with my boss and his boss but I flew coach.  It was small plane but the trip passed quickly without much discomfort as I knew where I was going.    It needs to be the same for us with regard to eternity.  
Hebrews 12:1-3 summarizes this opportunity
Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,  fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Just Ask!

All of us know that in today’s work environment and particularly in our larger organizations we need to delegate authority and responsibility.   Learning how to delegate, how to train and create environments where people that are close to the situation and close to the customer are the ones that are making decisions are critical factors in individual as well as organizational success.

While it can be difficult to cede authority to someone else, true delegation of authority happens when that transfer has happened and the supervisor is no longer micromanaging but has set parameters.  These parameters are more than just the goals and objectives but are the cultural bumpers that describe now only the ‘what’ but also the ‘how’ of things are to be accomplished.  

Leaders forget that when authority is truly delegated the final authority is delegated as well.  As an example, imagine a subordinate has been told they have the authority to schedule employees in their department.  However, when the schedule is about to be posted, the employees manager reviews the schedule and makes 11th hour changes.   In this case, the authority was never delegated and the employee is likely frustrated thinking he had been given the authority when actually he was only given another task.

Delegation is not abdication, and the manager is still accountable for the success of the organization.  How does the manager then provide leadership and maintain influence in those areas that have been delegated?

The answer is actually quite simple: “Just ask”.

One of the lessons we teach our children is to not just take things but to ask.   Being polite, asking rather than taking and using the word please are learned behaviors that we don’t want to unlearn when we become organizational leaders and managers.

Learning how to manage by asking questions rather than giving orders can be a huge win for both the manager as well as the organization.   People feel empowered and enjoy their jobs when they feel supported and coached rather than watched and micromanaged.

Remember that managers delegate not only to reduce their workload but also to develop leaders and future managers.   Leaders that have the appropriate authority to match their responsibility thrive and grow which benefits both the individuals as well as the organization.  

The Real Virus Is Fear

There is a virus that is attacking and ravaging this country but it is not Covid-19.   It is fear.  This fear is being spread by people ...