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.
Will Rogers said, "I don't make jokes… I just watch the government and report the facts."
Indeed, watch the goings on in Washington and you don't know whether to laugh or cry. Politicians so often do such goofy things that it almost seems merciless to laugh. Furthermore, when you try to make a point by using a particularly unexplainable leadership mistake by some politician or another, it sounds partisan no matter how you frame it. In addition to that, the current President is such a favorite fall guy of my crowd, that anything I say will just sound like piling on. If I shine a light on Obama's goofy missteps too often it just sounds like the same old Republican porch swing squeaking away.
Having said that, however, when a leader who aught to know better does something so poorly that it hands you the perfect teaching moment, you just cannot pass that up. Did I say poorly? Nix that. Poorly is far too effete a word for the most recent failed performance of Team Obama.
Less than a week ago in Chattanooga, Tennessee, one Mohammad Abdulazeez shot and killed four Marines and a Navy petty officer. I am absolutely certain the President was as shocked and outraged as the rest of us. I do not agree with any suggestion to the contrary. He is the commander-in-chief and five of his best from two branches had been mercilessly slain by a disturbed Islamic terrorist. I know the President must have been deeply saddened. It's not how he felt that caused the flap. It's what he did, or, more precisely didn't do. Or even more precisely didn't do, then did do, but way too late.
It may well be that the most intellectually strenuous role of the senior executive is that of chief decision maker. Whether pastor, company president or governor of a state, the unrelenting barrage of questions demanding answers is enervating to say the least. Perhaps CEO should be changed to Chief Decision Maker (CDM). All this is one of the reasons state governors tend to do better in the White House than legislators. They are used to the constant decisions, at least at the state level.
Where do you want the ...
When should we start the …
Should we buy the ...
Do you want me to sell the ...
Are you going to fire…
And so on and so on and so on. It's never ending.
To complicate matters even more, in any given day none of the decisions may seem to connect. This can leave the CEO with a scattered feeling; the sense that out of all the decisions and meetings and battery of questions, what has been accomplished?
At the National Institute of Christian Leadership, I teach an entire session on decision making. For use in that lecture I have designed what I call the Risk-Reward Decision Making Quadrilateral. I cannot go through the entire teaching in this brief post, but I want to share a few points which I hope will be helpful.
I believe the Supreme Court erred in its recent decision to bypass state laws with regard to marriage. I also believe there will be unintended legal and cultural consequences ahead. For example, I cannot see how the Court can now rationally rule against polygamy. I am opposed to the ruling, and I think it augurs badly for the landscape ahead.
This is certainly not to say "ahead" won't be strenuous. It will be. I see very sobering times ahead, including possible punitive governmental actions against churches and pastors, probably through the looming specter of an adversarial, anti-Christian and politicized IRS. I can see tremendous challenges ahead in terms of handling church membership, leadership and various pastoral offices such as weddings, baptisms and baby dedications. It will be an absolute field day for lawyers.
Having said all that, however, I am not in a depressed and frightened panic. I am not moving to the mountains or retreating from society. I refuse to be made fearful, which may cause hardness of heart and even hate. I am determined that God's grace can keep me loving, positive, gracious and hope-filled. Dark days don't have to make for dark Christians. Here are four things with which to encourage yourself in the Lord.
Humor is where you find it, and I have always thought the team name for Wake Forest University’s sports program is an absolute riot. The Demon Deacons! You gotta love it. It reminds me of my early days refereeing in the Washington, D.C. area. The sports headlines generated by the parochial schools were a scream.
Blessed Virgin Stomps St. Pius X
Bishop Gonzaga Ends Dream for Immaculate Conception
But I suppose my all-time favorite is this one, from the South.
Demon Deacons Prepare for Physical Test at Citadel
Most football teams want their teams named for fearsome beasts of prey. Eagles, Bears, Tigers and … Demon Deacons? When you think of it that way, lions and hawks don’t look very scary. But a demonic church leader? That is to be feared!
The Sunday after nine of its members, including the pastor, were shot dead, the Christians at The Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC gathered to worship and hear the Word of God. Reverend Norvel Goff preached the sermon, an unenviable task. I have never met the Rev. Norvel Goff, though I sincerely long to. I would not recognize him if he walked into my house but I recognized the Spirit by whom he spoke. I have never attended a worship service at Emmanuel nor, as far as I know, have I met any of its members but I recognized the Spirit in whom they assembled, through whom they worshipped and by whom they found comfort in their grief and grace instead of hatred.
This is the very Spirit of Jesus who, in the hour of His own death, prayed to God for the forgiveness of His murderers. The Spirit of Jesus was mighty in St. Stephen, who in Acts 7, even while being stoned to death, prayed the exact same
Dr. and Mrs. Rutland are currently celebrating their 48th wedding anniversary. As such, Dr. Rutland wanted to offer you a blog from guest writer, Dr. Steve Greene. Dr. Steve Greene is the executive vice president—Media Group, Charisma Media.
Many of us frequently admit, "We all make mistakes." And we say, "To err is human."
And let's not forget, "If you're not making mistakes, then you aren't doing anything."
Leaders will usually fall into one of two camps when it comes to their culture of creativity:
I believe that we are influenced by the managers we served early in our career. Much like parenting scripts, we tend to believe what we hear from our bosses as we launch out in our first few jobs.
A friend told me about the disastrous apology of a business colleague. He said, "I wasn't expecting an apology and didn't even want one. In fact, what he did was very minor, not really worth an apology. All he did was make things worse. I wasn't even angry before, but now I am. Now I want an apology. I deserve an apology."
"What went wrong?" I asked.
"His ‘apology’ is what went wrong. It wasn't an apology at all. His idea of an apology is my idea of a personal attack."
As silly as all that may sound, it is actually not that uncommon. Since none of us are perfect, we had better master the art of making a good apology. More than one apology, so called, has just made things worse, lots worse. If you're perfect, read no further. Otherwise, here are some keys to making a good apology. My suspicion is, unless you live on a deserted island, it’s a skill you'll need before you reach the finish line.
1. Apologize for what you did, not how the other person reacted. "I'm sorry I made you angry," is no apology at all. It just means I find it regrettable that you are so emotionally crippled that you got angry. "I'm sorry I told about the surprise party. What an idiot I am.” Now that's an apology.
Desperate for employment, a depression-era farmer applied at a passing circus. At the circus office door he made an impassioned plea. “I’ll do anything.”
At this the manager’s eyes lit up. “You’re hired,” he fairly shouted, embracing the shocked farmer. “I need a new gorilla. The old one has died, and we cannot afford to import one. We have skinned old Kong out, and I need someone to wear the suit and do the gorilla act.”
All reluctance dissolved at the mention of a sizable salary. Pride gave way to necessity, and the farmer’s new career was launched. As it turned out, the wheat farmer turned ape-man rather enjoyed it. His act was dramatic and crowd pleasing. He would swing out over the lion’s cage on a rope and rain bananas on the enraged beast below. The rope was carefully measured, however, and any actual danger seemed minimal.
At a kiddie matinee in Oklahoma, a miscalculation brought catastrophe, and the farmer in the gorilla suit tumbled into the lion’s cage. The lion leapt upon him immediately, and placing a massive paw on the “gorilla’s” shoulders, he began to roar in his face.
“Help!” the farmer screamed. “Help me! Someone please save me!”
“Shut up you fool!” the lion whispered in his ear. “You’ll get us both fired.”
Unhappily, a great deal of what passes for true Christianity is nothing more than monkey-suit religion. The calamitous condition of the contemporary church is that she has a pretty fair idea of what a Christian looks like. Granted, the view may be informed by local or cultural differences, but the fact remains that a portrait of a proper “Christian” has achieved something of a universal consensus. The
I am writing tonight from Israel. Here with a group of friends to host a tour of this country which I love so deeply, it seemed only appropriate to write on--- Why am I pro-Israel?
Let me just give two reasons.
1) Strategically: Some say Israel is our best friend in the Middle East. This is seriously wrong. Israel is not our best friend is the region; Israel is our ONLY friend in the Middle East. For whatever reason Islamic states such as Saudi Arabia may, even for a brief season, claim to be the friend of the United States, we must remember that their "friendship" is temporary, self-serving and duplicitous. They may buy our jets, and sell us their oil but we dare not indulge ourselves in the fantasy that they are true allies. If America's back is ever against the wall, they would turn their backs in the blink of an eye. Saudi Arabia may very well have had a hand in 9/11. We may never know the truth of that. Be that as it may, no Islamic state is or ever could be ultimately devoted to the same values as the United States. Israel is our ONLY friend in the Middle East.
Even as I post this, I know some will find it controversial and others may even reckon it borderline blasphemy. For some time now, financial experts, particularly Christian financial teachers, have utterly denounced all categories of debt. In The National Institute of Christian Leadership, I teach a lengthy session on debt, debt management, debt reduction and the use of debt as an instrument of strategic leverage. It may be the lecture in the entire NICL which generates the most questions and comments.
In the interest of space, I will not attempt to give the entire lecture in this brief post. Instead, I offer just a few provocative thoughts. The summary of it is this: While some maintain that all debt is always bad, I say bad debt and debt at a bad time is bad. There is bad debt to be sure. America is awash in credit card debt. That is bad debt. The federal government is drowning in debt. That is bad. Consumer debt, debt with nothing to show for it, is bad debt. Debt with no real hope of repayment is really bad debt. Debt that is secured with everything you own or ever will own and which cannot take your or your organization forward to a desired new reality is really, really bad debt.
I believe that many "totally, absolutely, completely, debt-averse" teachers are reacting, and well they might, to the debt-burdened masses who have indentured their lives and futures by immature impatience. I see, as they do, young couples who are bound and determined to have a house like their parents, full of new furniture and two expensive cars in the garage and to have it all right this minute. Unwilling to wait for those things, they borrow themselves into a life of financial bondage to horrific credit card interest rates and thereby set a course for ruin. They have burdened themselves with bad debt at a bad time in order to purchase a better present to which they feel entitled, and thereby purchased a bad future.
If that is what "debt opposition" is all about, I'm fully on board. If, on the other hand, the narrative is closer to "all debt is always bad, no matter what," I'm not so eager to sign on.
A "Blasphemous Proposition"
The acquisition of reasonable debt can be a legitimate strategy to move your organization or business to a new future.
The New England Patriots have sufficiently demonstrated the internal culture of their organization to the extent that pointing it out hardly seems necessary. Twice now in four years they have been penalized for cheating. The head coach, Bill Belichick, was caught filming opposing coaches in order to steal their plays. Now their star quarterback evidently conspired with low level staffers to deflate the game balls he would use in order to make them more easily catchable.
I cannot comprehend why. The Pats did not even need to cheat. They are perennial dominators in the NFL. I suppose the fear of losing can drive even winners to cheat when there is no need. Having said that I want to comment on two things. The culture of the team and the attitude of its fans.
Never, perhaps, in the history of pay-per-view have so many paid so much to see so little as in the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight. The two world-class boxers danced around the ring jabbing as tentatively as college boys in a job interview. Millions worldwide kept asking the same questions for much of the night. When are they going to really fight and what is going on? When it was over, those millions were asking another question entirely. Why did I shell out all that money for THAT?
It may well be that these two aging stars, and both have had truly remarkable careers, have done serious damage to boxing and especially pay-per-view boxing. Many are vowing never to shell out for a fight ever agin. One writer even went so far as to demand that Mayweather and Pacquiao collaborate with PPV to present a return match for free to all as a way to make up for their embarrassing "fight." That will not happen, of course, but it reveals the level of disappointment.
HERE IS THE QUESTION FOR THE LEADER'S NOTEBOOK:
What went wrong and what is the application to leadership?