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.
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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.
"Pigs in a Blanket, fry 'em like bacon." That was the chant repeated over and over again at a recent march led by an organization which calls itself Black Lives Matter. The marchers and their megaphone-wielding leaders were oblivious to one of two things:
1) The fact that a deputy sheriff in Texas had just been brutally executed.
2) That such incendiary language seems to endorse that murder or even call for more.
I cannot believe that no one, not one single person in the entire organization said, “Hey, I just saw on the news that a law officer was gunned down yesterday.” No one? They had no idea this had happened? That is inconceivable. They do not live in some impenetrable news vacuum. They knew it. They were deaf to it. They claim to care about lives. Evidently
Immigrants often express a shared dilemma: an inner conflict between the need to fit in, to belong to their new country, or at least to survive in it and the fear of losing their own roots. This clash within themselves is a deeply troubling, even painful identity crisis which is not easily or quickly resolved. Indeed, this struggle may persist across generations or even centuries. On the one hand, they long to belong where they live. They want to be a part of the society in which they now work and raise a family. On the other hand, they cannot simply jettison their entire former cultural selves. Culture is a complex tapestry of clothing, food, music, language, architecture and an entire value system informed by such realities as religion and history.
I met an elderly Greek woman in a souvenir shop in Florida who could speak only a few words of English. Her clothing was so typical of her country of birth that one might have assumed she had just come to the United States. However, her grandson told me she had lived in America for more than half a century. He, by the way, could speak hardly any Greek, and admitted with a shrug that the two of them had hardly any real relationship at all.
Hers was the immigrant dilemma. Her family are Americans. Her grandchildren do not think of themselves as Greeks or even in some hyphenated way such as Greek-Americans. Just Americans. She feels out of place. She looks for things that seem familiar. She lives where she lives because she has no choice, but it is strange territory. She still cooks dolmades and moussaka and most of her family eats it but she knows her grandchildren prefer hamburgers and french fries.
Three years before he died, Martin Luther wrote what may very well be among the most virulently anti-Semitic books ever produced, The Jews and Their Lies (Von den Juden und Irhen Lugen). In this scurrilous work, which, by the way, was venerated by the Nazis, Luther spent 65,000 words denouncing the Jewish people as demoniacal filth "wallowing in the feces of the devil." In no uncertain terms, the man known as the founder of the Protestant movement, called for a wave of persecution against Jews, including razing their homes, burning their schools and synagogues and forbidding their rabbis to preach. He went so far as to call for driving them out of Germany and even skated perilously close to calling for their mass murder.
Roland Bainton, Luther's most famous biographer, claimed Luther's anti-Semitism was "theological" and not "racial," whatever that means. Presumably, in Bainton's mind, this difference without a distinction somehow makes Luther's a better kind of anti-Semitism. Certainly Martin Luther did not create the Nazis, but that they drew aid and comfort from his writings is absolutely undeniable.
Modern Israelis are probably more painfully aware of Luther's anti-Semitic writings than are modern Protestants. Knowledgeable Israelis likewise are aware of the rising tide of anti-Semtism in the American academy. Draping itself in the language of social justice, this new wave of campus hatred claims to be nationally anti-Israel without being "racially"
I have spent most my life in leadership at one level or another. My leadership experience began in sports, playing, coaching and officiating. That season was invaluable, as was every subsequent phase of the journey in pastoral leadership, in the non-profit world, in business and in the academic arena. Every step was a laboratory of life and leadership. Then, as I began to teach leadership and management, I searched through all the seemingly random data this journey had provided in an effort to formulate transferable concepts. Had I just accumulated miles on my personal odometer or had I really profited from the trek? I knew where I had been and what I had done. The question remained, what had I learned and could I teach it?
Some say they have had forty-five years of experience when, in fact, they have had one year of experience...forty-five times. THAT I did not want. I wanted to learn from the journey, every step of the journey, including, and perhaps especially, my failures. When I started the National Institute of Christian Leadership, my desired outcomes were clear in my mind. "Keep it practical, keep it real and structure it in an understandable format for anyone at any stage of their leadership." That was it.
One of my favorite quotes goes something like this. "In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice they are not." That pithy nugget is credited to many, including the disparate likes of Albert Einstein and Yogi Berra, which in theory makes little difference, but which in practice is a substantial gap. Hence the title of this very column. I am both weary and wary of unproven theories. I care little who believes it to be a so called "best practice." I want to know if it has ever really worked anywhere. Theories that sound great in classrooms and board rooms are quite often exploded by reality.
Increasingly, younger learners are not asking their teachers what they know. That want to know what they have done and how it worked out. One practical ministry student at a well-known grad school talked to me about one of his professors. He made little or no attempt to varnish his poor opinion.
"He is out of it," he said. "Theoretical stuff. I'm sick of it. Every student I know is sick of it. I want to pastor a church. The class he teaches is called Pastoral Leadership, but he has never even pastored a church! How's that work?"
This was no dismissive young know-it-all who despises all professors. He told me he had taken a minor in business and heaped extravagant praise on one of the professors in that department. When I asked him what made that teacher so good, he explained it with passion. "He's been there. He owned his own company. He worked in the corporate world. I just loved listening to him. He didn't just know his stuff. He could point to things in the text book and tell us, ‘That won't work. It's fine in a book, but it won't work in a real business.’ I wanted to take every course he taught. I want ministry classes like that "
(Warning graphic content. Reader discretion advised.)
For the Nazis, the eradication of the Jewish population of Europe was a complex problem of arithmetic, science and logistics. It was never about ethics or the morals of mass murder. The challenge was numbers. They needed a solution, a final solution. How could they dispose of such huge numbers? That was the Nazi's only question. They wanted to kill millions, not only Jews but communists, Gypsies, homosexuals, and others. Deciding whom to kill or imprison was never really the issue. Anyone they deemed less than human, was the easy answer to that easy question. Nazi "science" so called, embraced a fundamental genetic distinction between themselves and such sub-humans. Choosing the victims and dismissing any ethical issues around killing them was hardly ever the questions. The means to do it was the real Nazi dilemma.
The horrific international machine of murder devised by the Nazis, arose from one philosophical proposition; the assignment of "less than human" status to several strata of society, beginning with the Jews. The real challenge was a matter of how to do it fast and efficiently. Once the ticklish little matter of morals was brushed aside, the problem for the Nazis became finding the means to concentrate such large numbers in central locations, an economical instrument for putting so many to death (bullets were after all expensive) and a way to dispose of so many bodies. But these were questions of planning and logistics, not ethics. The Nazis saw what they did, not as mass murder, but as the " final solution" to an international problem.