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There is a God in Heaven… And Here’s why that Matters

There is a God in Heaven… And Here’s why that Matters

There is a God in Heaven

Chaos.  Crime.  Corruption.  Shootings.  Terrorism.  Political upheaval.  Racial strife.  Economic catastrophe.  Family breakdown.  Societal unrest.  Moral disintegration.

Does it feel like our communities, culture, nation and world are coming apart at the seams?  Does it seem like everyday we wake up to another crisis that threatens you, your family or our nation?  If you are a business owner or an employee, does it feel like even your livelihood is at risk?

Are there any solutions to the seemingly insurmountable and existential problems facing us?

Is there anyone who can really bring the dissension, turmoil, chaos, and violence to an end via some new solutions that have yet to be revealed?

Has this kind of scenario ever been experienced by our nation in the past?  If so, when and how did our countrymen respond?

Truthfully, our nation has faced similar challenges in the past, including what seemed like overwhelming cultural degradation and moral depravity, with men and women showing little care or respect for others or God. 

Specifically, in the early 1700’s Americans were living in darkness.  Political leaders were corrupt. The King was oppressive. The culture was coarse.  Morals were exceedingly low.  The Church was weak and anemic with those Christians who did attend church having little impact on those around them, preferring to keep their beliefs to themselves and within the four walls of the church. 

The outlook for the colonies was bleak.  

And yet, a group of men and women, seeing the moral and spiritual condition around them, began to earnestly pray for revival in the colonies over the course of years.  They understood the truth that there is no political or economic solution for a heart problem.  There’s so much more to the story of the First Great Awakening, led by men like Jonathan Edwards, George Whitfield, and John & Charles Wesley.  But the truth is the entire course of our nation was changed because people prayed, God moved and individuals responded.  In fact, millions of individuals and families were transformed because of the restoration of their hearts back to God.

But it was less than 100 years later, and once again Americans fell back into their old ways.  Quoting from Joel Rosenberg’s book Implosion we see this:

“Following the Revolutionary War, America experienced a period of moral decline.  Spiritual devotion waned and social problems proliferated.  From the late 1770’s until the late 1820’s, per capita consumption of alcohol in America rose dramatically, to about four or five times what it is today… The social consequences were predictable.  Illegitimate births were rampant. Thomas Paine was proclaiming Christianity was dead — and certainly the body of faith appeared to be in a coma.  Yet even as church rolls were shrinking and greed, sensuality and family breakdown were becoming widespread, America was about to experience a great spiritual revival.

“Slowly at first, then building over the next several decades, one wave of spiritual renewal and religious rededication after another swept the country, in what historians now call America’s ‘Second Great Awakening.’  In one community after another, people began to wake up from their moral and spiritual slumber as though saying, ‘If we’re going to have a self-governing nation, it must be occupied by self-governing people.’  Within one generation, alcohol consumption fell by two-thirds.”

It’s worthwhile to note that the common thread between both the First and Second Great Awakenings was prayer.  Men and women, recognizing that there is a God in heaven who cares infinitely about the affairs of men, began to call out to Him in prayer with great diligence, urgency and consistency.  And as they prayed and followed God’s leading, He answered their prayers in a glorious and supernatural manner, and the hearts of Americans were turned back to God.

As we fast forward to 2016, we see a nation whose future is becoming more and more bleak.  Just as in our past, greed, sensuality, family breakdown, racial strife and violence characterize our nation.  Political leaders, whether democrats, republicans or independents, all profess to hold the magic ointment to heal all of our woes.  And yet, as we continue to place our hopes in a political figure or party, we see how consistent they are in failing us. 

Following this week’s shootings of eleven Dallas police officers, with five of them dying, the video interview below of Kellon Nixon, a witness of the shootings, is particularly relevant to this discussion.  I would encourage you to listen to the entire video but here are a few highlights of Kellon’s thoughts:

When asked by the MSNBC reporter, “How are you today?” Kellon responded:

“Today I am recovering spiritually.  Last night, when you start to see the shooting… you start to think, ‘It’s me against the world.’ But with that type of mentality we’ll implode as a people, not as ethnicity, but as a people, period.  We’re all one race at the end of the day… We have to be a Christian nation. We have to be governed by a higher authority. We can see what governing ourselves has proved… The best thing we can do is to value lives over the economy. I think that is one of our biggest problems in America.  The economy is stronger than our moral fiber.  Our desire for prosperity is so much greater than our desire to be moral, to be humane, to love, to care, that we’ll risk our children or the sanctity of marriage, just for money, just to stay on top as a nation. When we lose our hearts, when we lose our souls, we’re really at the bottom.  We’re the worst of people, no matter how materially rich we are.”

Did you catch that?  Losing our hearts and souls?  I believe Mr. Nixon has hit on the crux of the challenge we face.  We as a people have lost our heart and soul, and consequently we have seen the crumbling of a once great nation.  

But just as our countrymen of prior centuries realized, there is a path back to God.  And it begins in Prayer and a change of my heart and yours.  

Our political leaders have no answers to the unsolvable problems of our day.  Given that the root of the problem is the heart and spiritual in nature, we will remain disillusioned if we simply look horizontally for fixes.

The only solution to the vexing problems of our day is to bow our heads while directing our hearts upward towards heaven.  

Psalm 20:7 instructs us of this truth:  “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; but we will remember the name of the Lord our God.”  

What is your chariot?  In what are you trusting?  Who are you looking to for the solutions to your problems?  If it’s someone other than God, then you will remain disappointed and unfulfilled, with no hope.  

As the famous revivalist Gypsy Smith would say, “Do you really want to see a revival begin?  Draw a circle around you on the floor. Then get down on your knees in the middle of the circle and ask God to convert everybody inside that circle.  When you do that, and God answers, you are experiencing the start of a revival.”

So how about it?  Must we wait for more lives lost?  For more economic collapse?  For more violence?  For more dissension?  For more political corruption and disappointments?  For more moral decline?  

Or can you and I, individually, persistently and urgently call out to the God in heaven with this prayer:

“God, forgive me.  Change me.  Revive me.  Show me.  Strengthen me.”  

And then get up, go out and begin to share our commitment with others, encouraging them to join us in their own personal restoration with God. 

And when we do this, we will know this truth from Daniel 2:28:  “There is a God in heaven… and He holds the answers to our deepest problems and struggles.

Mark

Integrity: A Small Habit that Pays Huge Dividends

Integrity: A Small Habit that Pays Huge Dividends

Integrity

 

In life, there are choices we make and habits we form that either produce happiness and success or regret and failure.  One such choice is whether to walk with integrity or not.  And that choice begins in the smallest of decisions.

Recently, I had an interaction with a business owner that demonstrated this principle of integrity.  My HVAC unit at our farmhouse had developed a water leak and while we attempted to fix the problem ourselves, it continued to leak.  So I put a call into my HVAC contractor and the office manager, Nancy, setup an appointment for a service call.  However, I suggested I would like to text a video of the leak to the owner, Kim, for him to review and Nancy encouraged me to do so.  Within 5 minutes of texting the video of the leak, I received a call back with a suggestion from Kim on what I could try to perhaps solve the problem.  With the help of our farm foreman, we tried what was suggested and, voila!  The problem was fixed. 

The response from Kim, the owner of the HVAC company, resulted in a couple hundred dollars of lost revenue.  But that decision, while it may seem like a small thing, had the effect of growing his integrity in at least a couple of ways.

Employees

While employees are frequently encouraged to increase a company’s revenue, the decision by Kim served as an example to Nancy, his office manager, that there are things that trump revenue or profit.  When Kim provided me with the solution to my problem over the phone, he elevated integrity over profit.  He communicated to his employees that where you can provide a simple solution that requires little to no effort, then one should do so.  Earning a buck is not the supreme or only goal.  And so Nancy had that behavior modeled to her by her boss.  Can there be any stronger way to teach a value than to live it?

Customers

When the solution that Kim provided to me over the phone worked, and he lost a service call in the process, I was convinced that Kim’s company was one that I could trust.  Because Kim was willing to give up the service call revenue, and elevate integrity over profit, my confidence in his company skyrocketed.  I knew that were he to do any additional work for me in the future, I could trust him without reservation.  So his faithfulness in a small issue grew my trust exponentially.

What about you?  Are you ever tempted to bypass integrity?  Do you ever rationalize small, seemingly insignificant, compromises of truth or honesty?  You’ve heard the saying, “Sow a thought and you reap an action, sow an action and you reap a habit; sow a habit and you reap a character; sow a character and you reap a destiny.”

Do you desire a destiny of happiness, success and fulfillment?  It begins with integrity in the little things.  Commit yourself today to doing so and not only will you be thankful you did, you’ll also be pleased with where you end up.

He who walks with integrity walks securely…”

Mark

Photo credit:  Copyright: airdone / 123RF Stock Photo
Trump Wins, Cruz Withdraws, America Loses

Trump Wins, Cruz Withdraws, America Loses

Trump Wins, Cruz Withdraws, America Loses

Trump Wins Indiana.  Cruz Withdraws.  And America Loses. 

While the nation’s Trumpsters celebrated Tuesday night, I’m reminded of another celebratory night in November 2008 and again in November 2012.  The cause for jubilation those two nights was another politician’s victory — the occasion of Barack Obama’s two elections to POTUS.   

But every win is not progress.  And every victory is not a cause for celebration.  

We have only to consider the years since Obama’s election in 2008 to understand that sometimes winning is losing.  And some victories can be defeats.  

Trump’s pending coronation as the Republican nominee for POTUS, is one such loss and one such defeat.  

It is a loss for the conservative cause as defined by Ronald Reagan’s three legged stool. 

It is a defeat for social conservatism.

It is a loss for fiscal conservatism.

It is a defeat for a strong national defense.

And as such, America loses with Trump’s win on Tuesday.

As we’ve all learned in life, sometimes good guys do finish last, at least in the short term.  And this week, Senator Ted Cruz was one such good guy.  For those of us who have honestly examined Ted’s character, we have found a man of great integrity, with an unquestionable track record of fighting evil, defending good and standing for truth.  Yet he lost. 

But did Ted really lose? If you measure one’s life simply based on popularity, votes and the affirmation of man, then I suppose so.   

But I know Ted, both from spending time with him and Heidi, as well as examining his record.  And by doing so I know that Ted has kept the faith, he has fought the good fight, and at this point, while he may have lost a battle, I have full confidence that he has not lost the war. 

So I am not discouraged.

You see, I’m a firm believer in the truth we find in Ephesians that informs us that “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”  Because of this we are reminded to “be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.

So the real battle is not with the Republican Party, or Donald Trump, or even Donald Trump’s supporters (although they can certainly test our patience at times).  No, the real battle is a spiritual one, in which we are all engaged, whether we recognize it or not.  And sadly, that battle is being lost in our nation as a growing number of our neighbors, friends and citizens reject good men and women, choosing rather to embrace evil, corruption and depravity, on a larger and grander scale.  And as they do so, they call evil good and good evil.

Case in point: the embracing of Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and so much more.

But while the values many of us hold dear and which were foundational to the forming of our nation are being lost, we can still win individually.  You see, real winning is not measured by a poll or in a voting booth or even having the last word in a heated Facebook discussion.  Rather, real winning according to God, is obedience to Him and His commands.  And a follower of Christ is not called to win politically (although we must certainly engage politically).  Rather we are called to reflect our love for God by simply obeying Him as Jesus instructed us to do when He said: “If you love me, keep my commandments.

So as Americans continue to reject God’s values on a greater scale, and our nation loses more and more, you and I can win by simply obeying.  But honestly, obedience to God is a lot more difficult than simply voting for POTUS every four years.  

But I would suggest that is where the real battle is, not in the political arena, but rather in our personal lives.  And if we’re honest with ourselves, we probably already know this.  The battles that are the toughest are not those I wage with a political opponent.  No, the toughest battles that you and I will ever face are those within our heart, mind and will.  And perhaps that’s why America is losing.  Because too many of us have lost too many battles in our own lives.  We’ve first failed to obey God individually.  And as this behavior becomes the norm, our nation loses.

Thankfully though, the answer is simple as we are instructed in 2 Chronicles 7:14 If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

And when we do that we can expect to hear those winning words:  “Well done, good and faithful servant.

 

Mark

Are you overcommitted? Here's the solution…

Are you overcommitted? Here's the solution…

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Entrepreneurs, by their very nature, are achievers.  They are driven by mission, consumed with passion, focused to achieve, and committed to profit.  They don’t shy away from risk and seldom, if ever, do they find themselves with nothing to do.  In fact, an entrepreneur is generally not only one of the busiest people you will ever know, they can often be described as “workaholics.”

As an entrepreneur myself, I have found that description of me apt and on target.  For too many years as a young, budding entrepreneur and business professional, I frequently found myself burning the candle at both ends, with a desk that never quite got cleared off.  In fact, I have said dozens of times that I would never be “caught up” from all the projects or tasks that needed to be completed.

Essentialism2Have you ever struggled with these same sentiments?  Have you too often found that your plate is not just full but it’s overflowing?  While many of the tasks or projects that I find filling my day are wholesome, worthwhile and even appear necessary, I have too often found that some of those projects and tasks, while good, can be enemies of the best.

But being an achiever means you simply cannot disengage.  There is something within your DNA that compels you to action, to strive, to attempt great things.  I too have sensed these same driving forces within me and I have found myself overcommitted on too many occasions.  I have felt that what I was doing was necessary but I also struggled to figure out how in the world I could ever get everything completed in an excellent manner.

Well, there is hope and there are solutions.

I just finished reading the book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown and I feel as if it was written just for me, with my particular struggles being the bullseye of the author’s focus.  As I have coached and met with other entrepreneurs and business professionals though, I realize I am not alone.  I know that most entrepreneurs struggle with the problem of overcommitting and taking on more than they can possibly complete.

So what is the solution?

While part of the solution involves saying NO, it is much more than that.  Sure it may be important to say no to someone else, or we may need to tell ourselves no when the temptation arises to take on another project or goal, there is much more to the solution than simply saying NO.

In McKeown’s book he distinguishes between the non-essential versus the essential.  The non-essential can very easily creep into our lives under the guise of “good.”  Good can fill up our plates and life all too quickly.  Yet, when we allow this, we are in essence crowding out the very good or “best.”

But when we learn to prefer and select the essential, we begin to regularly stop and ask ourselves the question, “Am I investing in the right activities?” according to McKeown. He goes on to say,

“Essentialism is not about how to get more things done; it’s about how to get the right things done. It doesn’t mean just doing less for the sake of less either.  It is about making the wisest possible investment of your time and energy in order to operate at our highest point of contribution by doing what is only essential.”

In the midst of reading the book Essentialism I was offered what appeared to be another “opportunity” to be involved in something that was without a doubt a “good” thing.  It would only take 30 minutes of my week and it most certainly would have brought some value and good to my life.  Prior to my beginning on the journey to become an essentialist though, I would have quickly said “yes” to this new opportunity, after all it was “good” wasn’t it?

focus-on-what-mattersBut as an essentialist, I paused.  I took the time to evaluate my decision.  I evaluated the opportunity and asked myself: “is this the highest and best use of my time?”  Is it essential?  And with that brief pause and deliberate evaluation, I passed on the “good” opportunity.

What was interesting about the mere process of pausing, evaluating and then methodically coming to the proper conclusion, was the sensation I had when I actually said No.  At the instant that I clicked “Send” on the email to turn down the opportunity, I had a tremendous freeing sensation.  I had actually said No to something that was good.  But in doing so I knew that I had said Yes to the “wisest possible investment of my time and energy.”

I had chosen what was essential.

What about you?  Are you pursuing the essential in your life and business?  If you are an over-achiever and perhaps even a workaholic, I encourage you to consider this approach to your decision making.  Be intentional, deliberate and set out on the path of becoming an essentialist.  It may be one of the best decisions you will ever make.  To find out more about this new way of choosing, I recommend you read the book, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less either on Amazon or Audible.com.

Here’s to an essential life!

Mark

A Double Minded Leader:  Don’t be one!

A Double Minded Leader: Don’t be one!

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Have you ever been around a business leader who exhibits an air of indecisiveness? Does that same leader appear conflicted in his goals or priorities? Do the values he promotes in his organization seem at odds with his own personal values?

As an entrepreneur, have you ever found yourself in such a position? If so, what are some of the repercussions of double-mindedness?

Double-mindedness produces Instability

There is a verse that says “a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways.” Do you want stability in your life? Reject double-mindedness.

[tagline_box backgroundcolor=”#fff” shadow=”yes” shadowopacity=”” border=”1px” bordercolor=”#ededed” highlightposition=”top” content_alignment=”center”  modal=”” title=”” description=”” margin_top=”” margin_bottom=”” animation_type=”” animation_direction=”” animation_speed=”” class=”” id=””]A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways.Click to Tweet[/tagline_box]

For purposes of this discussion I am defining double-mindedness as a leader who pursues decisions or goals that violate his core values. For instance, if you personally value honesty and integrity, yet you encourage deception or “half-truths” in your business, then you will find your spirit in regular conflict. That conflict will produce instability. As a leader, if you are unstable when it comes to your own values, it will wreak havoc in your company. And this will lead to confusion.

Double-mindedness creates Confusion

When a leader is in conflict within his own values, he creates confusion for those he seeks to lead. Your team will look to you as an example of the values you affirm by both your words and actions. But if your core values do not align with these two, then your team will grow confused. That confusion will affect their productivity.

Those who know you personally as well as professionally will wonder who is the real you. As mentioned earlier, if you affirm the value of honesty and integrity in your personal life but violate those values in your business, you will confuse your team. They’ll wonder whether those values truly reflect you or are they simply attributes you deploy when convenient? This uncertainty and confusion will diminish your team’s productivity. And as their productivity declines, so will your company’s profitability.

Double-mindedness reduces Profit

If you are in business, the primary goal of your business is to create a profit. While you may desire to achieve certain goals with the surplus your business creates, without a profit a business has no mission. No doubt you’ve heard the phrase, “no money, no mission.”

But what if you are double minded? Will that affect your goal of creating a profit? Absolutely!

When a business leader sows confusion amongst his team and their productivity diminishes, the outcome will most certainly impact the company’s profitability. Unfortunately that reduction in productivity will also quickly spread to other team members like a snowball gaining momentum as it rolls down a hill.

So how does one combat double-mindedness?

Define and live your core values holistically

Dollarphotoclub_84078905What are those values that are dearest and closest to you? Can you identify them? Take some time to write them down. If they are true core values you will embrace them completely, not merely when it’s convenient.

Leaders are men and women with deep convictions. They lead from their core values and those values will permeate all they do. Your commitment to your core values at home and at work will send a sign of stability and clarity to your team. Doing so will also serve to instill those same values in them as well. As referenced earlier, if honesty and integrity are core values for you, as you uncompromisingly communicate those values in word and deed, those you lead will rise to embrace and exemplify honesty and integrity in your business.

Chick-Fil-A is one such company whose corporate purpose reflects the core values of its founder, Truett Cathy. The company’s purpose is:

“To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us. To have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-Fil-A.”

If you’ve ever been in a Chick-Fil-A restaurant you have undoubtedly had a positive experience from coming in contact with some of the company’s tens of thousands of employees. “It’s my pleasure” is the spirited response you will receive from every encounter with a Chick-Fil-A associate and it can’t help but leave you impressed. That positivity occurs because Truett Cathy was singularly minded. There was not even a hint of double-mindedness in Mr. Cathy and as a result he built the largest quick-serve chicken restaurant chain in America.

There is no doubt that Mr. Cathy’s company exemplifies stability, clarity and profitability. But this reality did not happen on it own. Rather, Chick-Fil-A’s success flows from its founder’s core values which served to established a corporate culture that permeates tens of thousands of associates to this day.

As an entrepreneur you have the opportunity to live out your core values in a manner that millions of Americans only dream of… as a business owner. Do so with great passion, commitment and in a spirit of great responsibility, knowing that “To whom much is given, much is required.”

Reject double-mindedness, live your core values and you will bring stability, clarity and profitability to your company.
Mark