Here is a statement that should give no one a flicker of pause: Jesus was not a Christian. Jesus never knew a Christian or knew anyone that became a Christian until after His crucifixion. He was Jewish and all of His companions were Jewish. All of those He taught were Jewish except a very few scattered Gentile tourists, some in Syrophoenicia and here and there a Roman soldier. The prayer that we call The Lord’s Prayer is thoroughly Jewish, taught by a Jewish rabbi to a Jewish audience in Israel. Therefore, it is no surprise that the prayer is quite consistent with the main stream of Jewish prayer.
More surprising by far is that Psalm 23, written by King David a thousand years before Jesus was born, is more similar to Christian prayers, at least in one important way. Most Jewish prayers are corporate in nature; that is, they are usually plural in their language. The Lord’s Prayer is a perfect example. “Our Father . . .” “Give us . . .” “Forgive us . . .” This is characteristic of most Jewish prayers, especially liturgical prayers, which are commonly about the Jewish people, the land, the nation, or the family.
"Quitters never win, and winners never quit."
That shop-worn saying denounces quitters and quitting in no uncertain terms. As is true of most folk proverbs, there is a mixture of truth and error in it. Certainly, quitting too soon, giving up the minute the going gets a bit rough is a sure sign of an undeveloped character. For example, we have become a nation of marriage quitters. Instead of hacking through the rough jungle of marital hurt with the machetes of counseling and perseverance and forgiveness, Americans rush to quit. For many, the default position is to bail out without even considering the possibility of doing the hard work to get through whatever tangled mess their marriage is in -- regardless of who got them there.
If quitting means diving for the escape hatch at the first sign of hardship, well, such quitters as that will seldom win. Often, quite often, great leaders must stay the course when the winds are contrary. Encouraging the team while coming up with new strategies, great leaders can steer the ship on through the storms of adversity. Many times victory is just ahead for those who hang in there.
On the other hand, the proverbial wisdom about quitting can sometimes be an ego trap to keep leadership heading straight toward disaster. Lurking in dark side of perseverance is a stubborn refusal to listen to face reality or wise counsel. Sometimes quitting is the right thing to do. Even as I wrote that last sentence I could hear the complaints. I should probably stop right here, but I refuse to quit. While it may be true that quitters never win, it is also true that sometimes winners quit.
Here are a few thoughts on quitting.
When I was in undergraduate school, my Western Literature professor was a young firebrand atheist who made no secret of his disdain for religion. One day in class someone asked him what he thought was the greatest single poem ever written. He shocked us all when he answered Psalm 23.
“We thought you were an atheist,” someone called out.
“I am,” he answered. “Two years ago our baby died. My wife is a Catholic and insisted on having a priest do the funeral. I did not want any such thing, and I was very angry at her and that old priest. At the grave he prayed Psalm 23 and I, who believe not one word of it, felt deeply moved. Some unexplainable wave of comfort swept over me. I don’t believe in God but I believe in poetry. Any poem that can move you like that, against your will, is great poetry.”
When Seutonious, the Roman historian, explained the downfall and death of Marc Anthony, he blamed a flaw in Anthony's character as much as the strategy of his enemy, Octavian. In his pathology of Anthony's astonishing political and military collapse, the historian of the Caesars employed an intriguing Greek word. Literally translated, eklusis simply means to unstring a bow. Figuratively, however, it implies a loss of focus and the resulting loss of energy.
When a bow is strung, energy is in the bow. Unstrung, it loses all its energy. An unstrung bow is hardly more than a stick with a string attached. The energy is in the tension, in the taught string and the bent bow. Furthermore, a strung bow is ready to be used for its purpose. Unstrung, the bow is unprepared for much of any immediate use. Between the unstrung bow and the launching of the arrow, there is now a missing step of preparation and the restoration of energy.
This "unstringing" process is often a matter of distraction. Living in luxury in the Eastern half of the Roman Empire, indulging himself with Cleopatra, and according to Seutonious, frequently staying drunk, Marc Anthony quite obviously forgot the point. Soft, distracted and unprepared, Anthony, could not hope to defeat the ferociously energetic and obsessively focused enemy, who was to become Caesar Augustus.
With the upcoming release of my new book, 21 Seconds to Change Your World, I thought it would be a great opportunity to share an excerpt. To order your copy please visit 21secondsbook.com.
Two very disparate elements of Christendom have regrettably nudged the Lord’s Prayer toward a musty and seldom opened cabinet. It happened because of equal and opposite errors, but the effect was the same: assumed irrelevance. The Roman Catholic use of the Lord’s Prayer for acts of penance sometimes devolved in the minds of Catholic laymen into punishment rather than penance: “Say three Our Fathers and three Hail Marys and do something nice for the person you hurt.” The intent was to push the penitent soul straight into a dynamic encounter with spiritual formation. Somewhere along the line, for some, saying the Our Father became the parochial version of writing “I will not talk in class” one hundred times on the blackboard.
Some traditional Protestants deposited the great prayer in the dustbin of spiritual irrelevance, or at least powerlessness, in quite another way: liturgy. By relegating the Lord’s Prayer almost exclusively to liturgy it became the mindless suffix to the pastoral prayer, the obligatory annex tacked on corporately just before the amen. Droned through with bovine enthusiasm, the prayer became to genuine spiritual formation what outside lights became to the meaning of Christmas.
Charismatics and Pentecostals finished the job. Paranoid about any possible liturgical subversion and terrified that something might look—God forbid—traditional, they by and large ignored the Lord’s Prayer. When I became the president at Oral Roberts University, certainly the best known charismatic university in the world, I began to occasionally use the Lord’s Prayer corporately in the chapel services. It was not long before one mother called me in tears that her daughter was in “spiritual pain” at being subjected to such a practice. I was, she continued, destroying the students’ worship experience. Pointing out to her that Jesus gave us the prayer and commanded us to use it proved an irrelevant and effete argument in the face of her deeply held convictions. Christian college students, she insisted, should not be put through such a grueling and Spirit-killing experience as praying the Lord’s Prayer together in chapel.
Some charismatics even dismissed the prayer as “too elementary” and lacking in faith. Odd, isn’t it, that it is the prayer Jesus told us to pray? I find myself reluctant to dismiss the Lord’s direction on prayer. It could be that those who believe they have “moved beyond it” have marched on to some greater victory, leaving their ammunition behind.
I found much more winsome the response of a visitor at Free Chapel Church in Orange County, California. After hearing me teach at length she told me how excited she was to go home and memorize the prayer and start using it. She said she had never heard the prayer before and found it quite beautiful and that hearing it had a powerful effect on her. I was surprised that she had come to adulthood without having ever heard the prayer until she explained that she was Jewish.
“It is a Jewish prayer,” I told her. “A Jewish rabbi taught it to His Jewish followers. It was decades before any Gentiles ever heard it or prayed it.”
Absolutely delighted with this fact—and it is a fact—and utterly charmed by the prayer itself, she assured me that she would use it just as I recommended. Not coincidentally that conversation and the thrill of discovery I saw in her eyes in no small part helped me decide to write this book. Have you laid aside the Lord’s Prayer? Has it become perfunctory? Or even forgotten? What about the Twenty-third Psalm? Does it thrill you to pray it? Is it the medicine of your very soul’s restoration? Do you merely repeat it? How long since you prayed the psalm? Or spent time slowly meditating your way through it word by lovely word?
That precious Jewish lady was not the sole encouragement I received to write this book. Pastor Jentezen Franklin invited me to teach on this at Free Chapel Church. He expressed that he was personally touched in a new way by the ancient prayer. He graciously but firmly pressed me to write this book and furthermore, not to wait. My wife, Alison, also urged me to do so. In other words, two of the most significant Christian spirits in my life seemed as blessed as that Jewish visitor.
I interpreted that to mean that the book might be a blessing to neophytes and veterans alike. I was, of course, thrilled that a Jewish lady who had never heard the Lord’s Prayer could express such genuine excitement for this teaching. Knowing that two wonderful, mature, experienced Christian leaders such as Alison and Pastor Franklin were so deeply stirred was the impetus I needed.
The Lord’s Prayer and the Twenty-third Psalm together became the cocktail of life that healed my mind. Mixed and well-shaken, repeated back to back, over and over again, prayed aloud, prayed silently, desperately, and joyfully, sometimes with such ragged faith that it could hardly be called faith, these two ancient devotional instruments became the medicine of my soul’s restoration.
Order your copy of 21 Seconds to Change Your World today at 21secondsbook.com
With the upcoming release of my new book, 21 Seconds to Change Your World, I thought it would be a great opportunity to share an excerpt. Below is the foreword, written by my friend, Mark Batterson. I am so grateful for his kind words and I hope this book will be a blessing to you. To order your copy please visit 21secondsbook.com.
Foreword by Mark Batterson
Have you ever heard someone talk about how their entire life changed—their entire life saved—because they had a thought that was just out of character enough to think upon it and act upon it?
When I was in high school, lo these many moons ago, I earned the money to buy my first car working at the local Foodland. Until closing most nights and all day Saturdays, I stocked shelves, swept floors and carried groceries out to the cars of those who requested that service. I do not regret those long hours and I have never forgotten some of the valuable lessons learned. I'm sure some of those lessons would sound like mere platitudes to many today. Such as:
"Hard work is the key to success."
"Be diligent in small beginnings and God will raise you up."
"Save your money and you can work your way to a better life."
The thing is they all turned out to be true. I knew I was not entitled to a car. I knew no one, least of all my father, was going to buy one for me. I knew the fact, or at least I thought it was a fact, that "all the other boys dads were buying them cars,” was not going to influence my father to buy me one. Not even for a second. I knew all this. If I was going to have a car I was going to have to work hard, save my money and go get one, which I did.
As I write this I am sitting on the front porch of our national director's house in Ghana. His name is Rev. Sammy Odarno and he has worked in the Global Servants ministry since 1982. One of my dearest friends, Sammy's home is my home in Ghana and Ghana is home away from home for me. It is early morning and there is a delicious coolness to the air which will be gone all too soon. The raucous morning sounds from the nearby village of Anwomaso are getting louder by the minute. Inside the house, I hear Comfort, Sammy's wife, getting breakfast ready. It will be simple; Nescafé, a boiled egg and and her famous banana bread. Comfort's food is, well, comforting.
In fact, this entire ministry comforts me no end. In Ghana, Global Servants is still called Trinity Foundation, which is the first name under which we incorporated the work here. Here on this compound, just outside the city of Kumasi, we have our headquarters church, the director’s house, a day care center, a K-8 primary school, and House of Grace Ghana, which houses 10 Ghanaian orphan girls. In the countryside scattered all across the north of Ghana are thirty churches. A few more are in Togo, Benin, Ivory Coast, and Burkina Faso.
I try to remember why we made the decisions, why we took each step to get here, but the length and complexity of the journey defy easy analysis. It unfolded more organically than systematically. Sammy and I began with evangelistic campaigns in remote villages. Those led to churches as the new believers requested houses of worship. Most of those churches were the first and remain the only Christian presence in the villages.
Success and failure are not so much matters of what we learn or earn or own. Success is measured and determined by what we reverence. As worth is assigned to things in a society, the individuals in it will carve out their legacy of success or failure.
If virtue is reverenced, virtue increases. If virtueless success or characterless talent is admired above all, character breaks down. A dangerous step towards collapse is taken when obvious irreverence is touted as a virtue.
Why do the speed-to-market folks struggle so with the people up in legal and accounting? Why does the church administrator think the music director is the anti-Christ? What makes a security guard so deeply resentful of a professor who just wants her classroom unlocked for an evening class?
A Chicago area athlete, a boy who "identifies" as a girl has been playing on the girls' sports teams at his/her high school for some time with only a low level of controversy. The school accommodated the student with private shower facilities apart from other athletes of either gender. The U.S. Department of Education has now ruled that practice discriminatory and "humiliating" to that student. That student must now be allowed full and unrestricted access to shower with and at the same time as high school female athletes.
This is insane, of course, but an insane government should be expected to make insane decisions, and insanity now rules. No thought has been given to the high school girls, girls who "identify" as what they actually are. They must, or their schools will lose substantial federal funds, MUST shower nude with a student who has all the physical characteristics of a boy. The average sophomore in high school is fifteen. That means a fifteen-year-old girl must shower nude next to boy, a boy who is physically intact, irrespective of his "identification." The invasion of her privacy, her
One of the most popular lectures I teach at the National Institute of Christian Leadership is based on a graphic I designed. I call this schematic the Risk-Reward Quadrilateral. It's simple really, but seeing it, actually seeing it on the screen, has proven immensely helpful to growing leaders seeking to understand how to make decisions. One of the most challenging aspects of leadership at every level is this very issue of decision making. The constant barrage of decisions demanding answers can be wearing to say the least and downright paralyzing at the worst.
I will not try in this brief blog to explain that entire lecture, but here are a few insights.
There are only two places in all of the New Testament where a “charcoal fire” is described in just those words. One is one on which Jesus cooked and to which He welcomed His dripping, wounded friend. The other, the first, was in Caiaphas’ courtyard, at which Peter warmed his hands. There, identified as a Galilean and a friend of Jesus, Peter cursed and denied the man who had prophesied that he would do so.
Perhaps Jesus prepared just such a fire, recreated a place of painful remembrance where Peter could be healed of his most crippling memory. Two of the post resurrection appearances of Jesus are at table. With a meal, Jesus offered comfort at Emmaus and grace in Galilee. His resurrection meant personal fellowship, renewal of relationship, and a new life free of guilt and condemnation.
When, in our moments of deepest loneliness, we turn to Christ, our comfort is not in the doctrine of the resurrection but in His fellowship with us. That is the message of Emmaus. He listens and explains. He walks with us, breaks bread with us, and comforts us with words of revelation.
Please read the following quote. It was the opening line of a BBC online news story of October 11, 2015. It was written by BBC's health editor, James Gallagher.
"The first clinical trial injecting foetal (British spelling) stem cells into babies still in the womb has been announced."
The story concerns a new medical trial being conducted in England and Sweden hoping to "lessen symptoms of incurable brittle bone disease." This terrible disease, a result of a DNA disorder, causes a devastating lack of development in bones. Certainly it is to be hoped that it can be cured. Having said that, look again at the opening Gallagher quote.
Two different terms are used for the unborn. Those being destroyed in the womb are called "fetuses" and those being medically treated in the womb are referred to as "babies." Later in the story he says, "The stem cells will come from terminated pregnancies." In other words, what the tissue in the womb actually is, is decided by someone, science or its own mother, one supposes, without any regard to whether it might always simply be the same thing. If those someones want to kill it, the baby is a fetus. If they choose to cure it, the fetus suddenly becomes a baby.
The ethical issue is unavoidable. Is it a baby or a fetus? Does what someone, the mother, science, whoever decides to do with the unborn determine whether it is human or not? In other words, if a fetus is a fetus why cure it? If it is a baby, why kill it?
The nevertheless of naked obedience unlocks more miracles than we can imagine. The bridge between our discouragement and God’s will is nevertheless, and on the other side are the bulging nets of His bounty.
C.T. Studd was in his fifties, sickly and burdened with an invalid wife. No missions board in England would even entertain the idea of his going to int the most dangerous part of Africa. Study and his wife, Priscilla, had labored in India, and by all logic deserved a rest in England. But Studd heard God calling him to Central Africa.
On The Leader's Notebook this week I am featuring a guest post. I may not do this often but every now and again, I may find something (or someone) I want to introduce to the Notebook's readers.
This week's guest is not only a business/leadership/marketing/management expert; he is also a personal friend and former colleague. Dr. Steve Greene has extensive experience in business and in business education. Dr. Greene was the dean of the college of business at ORU while I was the president of that university. Before his highly successful years at ORU, he provided excellent leadership at a multi-million dollar television company and a major restaurant chain. Today he is a blogger, publisher, speaker and a business consultant with an extensive clientele. Dr. Greene is also a member of the Board of Directors of Global Servants Inc.
Why did you do it THAT way?
Guest blog by Dr. Steve Greene
People want to be led. They do not wish to be controlled.
Effective leaders know the end result they have in mind. The vision of the leader is clearly articulated and the team knows what is expected of them.
Here are eleven true statements that some may find a bit shocking or, at least, confusing at first blush.
1) Heaven is hopeless:
There is no hope in heaven because there is nothing left to hope for. In heaven all our hopes are realized and ultimately fulfilled.
2) Your faith dies with you:
As it is true with hope, so it is with faith. I talked with an agnostic who asked, "What if your faith dies with you?" I assured him that I am 100% certain all faith dies with all believers. He was shocked but I went on to explain to him that the Bible says, "Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen." Once we have what we hoped for, and see Him face to face, upon whom we have believed, faith is jettisoned.
3) There are no atheists in hell:
This statement is the opposite of one and two above. Believers will not need faith or hope in heaven. Likewise, atheists, once they see Christ on His judgment seat will no longer be atheists. It will be too late by then, but their atheism will be over.
Before we find victory in the last valley, we must, as David did, find the submitted faith to use the first person possessive. David did not say, the shepherd, or a shepherd, or even our shepherd. He said my shepherd. “the Lord is my shepherd” (Ps 23:1).
David envisioned a Savior who, between the twin escarpments of divine suffering and divine glory, is willing to walk through the valley of our very human need. He is more than willing to be my shepherd, to sleep where I sleep, to care where I slake my thirst, and to restore my soul. He is there to lead me, defend me, feed me, anoint me, and walk with me when death casts its shadow across my face. The only caveat is that I must let him.
Labor Day is a much loved three-day weekend in the United States. This national holiday speaks of grilling out, family picnics and summer's last hurrah ahead of the harsh realities of back to school and even the winter to come. However, the labor it celebrates just may not be as beloved as the holiday itself. I certainly understand everyone loves a special day off and Labor Day comes at a particularly beautiful “end-of-summer” moment. Family fun and one last fling at the lake are a welcome weekend to be sure, but what about labor, the work from which we take the weekend off? The value of the holiday is self-evident to a recreation-minded culture such as that of the US. Work itself? Maybe not so much.
In fact, there is an actual anti-work message that percolates through Western culture at certain levels. Often it is expressed as a sort of joke, a playful poke at the Protestant work ethic.