Thursday, December 3, 2020

Leadership Thought: What Is Your Purpose in Life? Check Your Passion and Your Giftings.

Dear Friends,

At one of our past staff meetings, I played a brief two-minute message on finding your purpose in life. I thought it was an excellent message and one that would challenge each of us to think or rethink our purpose in life.  The speaker suggested that one way to find our purpose is to determine our passion (a subject I discussed a couple of days ago in my Leadership Thought) and discover our gifts and talents and when we do this, we will find our purpose, or what God has designed and created us to do.

When we look at our passion and ask ourselves what excites us, what energizes us and keeps us awake at night and combine that with what we are good at-our natural talents and our giftings, we will discover our purpose, or what God has designed us to do.

Each of us went around the table wrestling with these two questions: "What is our passion" and "what do we do well", and the discussion, not only helped us get to know one another better, but provided valuable information for future reflection. 

One of the hardest things about answering these questions was to acknowledge what we were good at for we all feared being accused of being prideful in acknowledging our talents and giftings. And yet in doing the exercise, I was wonderfully reminded that what I am good at has nothing to do with me, for it's all about Him. God is the giver of my passion, and He is also the giver of my gifts and natural abilities, so why should I be embarrassed to acknowledge what I excel at since any abilities that I possess are not my own doing but simply a gift from Him.

That is why one speaker I know, who, after being applauded for delivering a message, will simply turn and say to his audience, "Thanks, but you are not applauding me, but you are applauding God for He is the one who has enabled me to do what I do well."

So, what's God's purpose for your life, and if you know it, how well are you fulfilling it? If the answer is not very well, then maybe today is the day you make some lifestyle alterations.

Hopefully when you do, your purpose will look something akin to the answer given in the Westminster Shorter Catechism to the question "What is the chief end of man?"  It is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever."

Yours in faith and friendship,

Pastor Tom

Leadership Thought: How Will You Add Value to People Today?

Dear Friends,

One of the most influential people in my life is John Maxwell. I have never met him personally although I have heard him speak at numerous conferences. I have listened  to his messages on the internet and absorbed his wisdom through many of the over 100 books he has written. I resonate with him because he is not only one of the great experts on leadership, but he is also a person of deep faith. And most of the leadership principles John teaches, have their foundation in the teachings of Jesus. To me the greatest leadership lessons come from the Master Teacher, Jesus Himself, and if we will look to Him, we will find more than enough leadership lessons to make us successful in whatever we might do in life.

One of the  key principles in John’s writing and teaching is the importance of “adding value to others.” We are to be people who are always on the lookout for ways to help people  become all that they were meant to be.   

In John’s words, leaders are made to be “lid lifters,” helping others discover their often hidden and unrealized potential, so they in turn can use that potential to make a difference in other people’s lives.

We all have gifts within that can be used to add value to others. We may not recognize those gifts, or we may underestimate or under appreciate their importance, but we all have something that we can do 100 times better than someone else

The late Elie Wiesel, a well-known writer and survivor of the Holocaust, writes that “When you die and you meet your Maker, you’re not going to be asked why you didn’t become a Messiah or find a cure for cancer? All you’re going to be asked is, ‘Why didn’t you become you? Why didn’t you become all that you are?’”

Everyone has something to offer, and as I go through life I want to be one of those people who helps others discover the gifts, talents and abilities they within them, so that they might become all that they were meant to be.

One way to do that is to use your sweet spot, the thing you do best, to add value to others. My sweet spot is encouragement, and so I try and exercise it by always being on the  lookout for ways I can encourage others. Your sweet spot may be serving, or giving, or listening and you can use it in adding value to others.

Why not take a few minutes today to think about the experiences that you have had, the talents you might possess, the learning you have acquired and ask God to show you how you can use these things to add value to others. In so doing you will be fulfilling the exhortation found in  Hebrews 13:16 where we read: “And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”

Yours in faith and friendship,

Tom

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Leadership Thought: Don’t Sleepwalk Though Life: Take a Harry Flaherty with You.

Dear Friends,

I love being around passionate and enthusiastic people. Maybe it is because as a high school and college athlete and then as an 8-year athletic director in Fort Lauderdale Fl., I have come to appreciate the value passion plays in a person, or in a team’s success.

As an athletic director, I always talked about the advantage our teams had when they played at home, in front of some of the most wildly enthusiastic fans in South Florida. We always encouraged our crowds to be the 12th man on the field at our football games or the 6th man on the court of our basketball contests.

Crowd passion and enthusiasm can so inspire a team that they can turn a heartbreaking loss into a breath-taking victory.

I love to see passion in athletics, but I love to see it in church and in the workplace. At Sunday morning worship, I love to see hands lifted, voices raised, and hearts overflowing with exuberance when we all sing “Raise a Hallelujah,” as we did a couple of weeks ago.

I want to hang with passionate and enthusiastic people because I know they will lift me up and make me better. 

Harry Flaherty is just this kind of person. Harry is the state director of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and he has been a close friend of mine for many years. Each Sunday, he sits in the front row carefully and meticulously taking notes of the message. After one of those Sundays when you leave the pulpit feeling like you could have done a better job, Harry runs up to you and points to the two pages of notes he has taken in his little sermon notebook he always carries with him. He then, with passion, goes on to point out how your message impacted his life. Every Sunday morning preacher should be so blessed to have a Harry Flaherty in his congregation.

Pete Rose was once asked which is the first to go as a baseball player-his eyes, his legs, or his arm? His response was telling. He said, “None of these things. It is when his enthusiasm goes that he is through as a player.” 17 Indispensable Laws of Teamwork, John Maxwell, p. 80

When one’s passion is lost, the chances of success in any sport or profession is significantly diminished. I believe  passion is one of the keys to successful evangelism. If we are not excited about our faith, then probably others won’t be either. And if that is the case, it may be time to put a hand over our heart and ascertain if we even possess a spiritual heartbeat.

Paul exhorts the Colossian church to be enthusiastic. “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men” (Col.3:23). In Ecclesiastes we read, “Whatsoever your hands finds to do, do it with all your might” (Ecc. 9:10). 

Why did the workers in Nehemiah’s day complete the rebuilding of the walls surrounding Jerusalem in just 52 days? It was because “the people had a mind to work” (Neh. 4:6). They were enthusiastic, full of zeal and ardor and the rest of those qualities that spell out the word passion.

Whatever you and I do on the athletic field, in church or in the business world, let's do it enthusiastically. Let’s never be guilty of going half speed, or let it be said of us that we sleepwalked through life.

It has been said, that "When a leader reaches out in passion, he is usually met with an answering passion.” That is the kind of leader every team, business, church and family desires. It is the kind of person who does what he loves and loves what he does. So, let’s take the foot off the brakes, and get moving, or better yet, get ‘scorching.'  Who knows the difference we might make today or maybe for all eternity?

Yours in faith and friendship,

Tom

Leadership Thought: The Rabbi's Gift with Discussion Questions.

Dear Friends, 

One of the greatest stories I have ever read is the "Rabbi's Gift." It comes from an unknown source, and while apocryphal it contains a universal truth of utmost value. I first recall reading it in one of Scott Peck's book, I think The Road Less Traveled.  I made a copy of it and stored it away knowing I would someday find a use for it.   For me it is a wonderful reminder of what could happen if we treated everyone with the same love and respect that Jesus showed to people. 

I have included questions below that would be appropriate for small group discussion.

The story concerns a monastery that had fallen upon hard times. Once a great order, as a result of waves of persecution in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and the rise of secularism in the nineteenth, all its branch houses were lost and it had become decimated to the extent that there were only five monks left in the decaying mother house: the abbot and four others, all over seventy in age. Clearly it was a dying order. 

In the deep woods surrounding the monastery there was a little hut that a rabbi from a nearby town occasionally used for a hermitage. Through their many years of prayer and contemplation the old monks had become a bit psychic, so they could always sense when the rabbi was in his hermitage. "The rabbi is in the woods; the rabbi is in the woods again" they would whisper to each other. As he agonized over the imminent death of his order, it occurred to the abbot at one such time to visit the hermitage and ask the rabbi if by some possible chance he could offer any advice that might save the monastery.

The rabbi welcomed the abbot at his hut. But when the abbot explained the purpose of his visit, the rabbi could only commiserate with him.

"I know how it is," he exclaimed. "The spirit has gone out of the people. It is the same in my town. Almost no one comes to the synagogue anymore." 

So, the old abbot and the old rabbi wept together. Then they read parts of the Torah and quietly spoke of deep things. The time came when the abbot had to leave. They embraced each other. "It has been a wonderful thing that we should meet after all these years," the abbot said, "but I have still failed in my purpose for coming here. Is there nothing you can tell me, no piece of advice you can give me that would help me save my dying order?" "No, I am sorry," the rabbi responded. "I have no advice to give. The only thing I can tell you is that the Messiah is one of you." When the abbot returned to the monastery his fellow monks gathered around him to ask, "Well what did the rabbi say?" "He couldn't help," the abbot answered. "We just wept and read the Torah together. The only thing he did say, just as I was leaving --it was something cryptic-- was that the Messiah is one of us. I don't know what he meant." 

In the days and weeks and months that followed, the old monks pondered this and wondered whether there was any possible significance to the rabbi's words. The Messiah is one of us? Could he possibly have meant one of us monks here at the monastery? If that's the case, which one? Do you suppose he meant the abbot? Yes, if he meant anyone, he probably meant Father Abbot. He has been our leader for more than a generation. On the other hand, he might have meant Brother Thomas. Certainly, Brother Thomas is a holy man. Everyone knows that Thomas is a man of light. Certainly, he could not have meant Brother Elred! Elred gets crotchety at times. But come to think of it, even though he is a thorn in people's sides, when you look back on it, Elred is virtually always right. Often very right. Maybe the rabbi did mean Brother Elred. But surely not Brother Phillip. Phillip is so passive, a real nobody. But then, almost mysteriously, he has a gift for somehow always being there when you need him. He just magically appears by your side. Maybe Phillip is the Messiah. Of course, the rabbi didn't mean me. He couldn't possibly have meant me. I'm just an ordinary person. Yet supposing he did? Suppose I am the Messiah? O God, not me. I couldn't be that much for You, could I? 

As they contemplated in this manner, the old monks began to treat each other with extraordinary respect on the off chance that one among them might be the Messiah. And on the off chance that each monk himself might be the Messiah, they each began to treat themselves with extraordinary respect.

Because the forest in which it was situated was beautiful, it so happened that people still occasionally came to visit the monastery to picnic on its tiny lawn, to wander along some of its paths, even now and then to go into the dilapidated chapel to meditate. As they did so, without even being conscious of it, they sensed the aura of extraordinary respect that now began to surround the five old monks and seemed to radiate out from them and permeate the atmosphere of the place. There was something strangely attractive, even compelling, about it. Hardly knowing why, they began to come back to the monastery more frequently to picnic, to play, to pray. They began to bring their friends to show them this special place. And their friends brought their friends.

Then it happened that some of the younger men who came to visit the monastery started to talk more and more with the old monks. After a while one asked if he could join them. Then another. And another. So, within a few years the monastery had once again become a thriving order and, thanks to the rabbi's gift, a vibrant center of light and spirituality in the realm.

Yours in faith and friendship,

Tom

Below is a series of questions designed for  small group discussion  produced by Disciplewalk.com 

 1. Was the Rabbi the church growth expert the Abbot thought he was?

 2. What did the Rabbi do to help the Abbot?

 3. What was the change that led to the community growing in numbers?

 4. What does all this say about what must happen before churches grow? 

 5. How did the expert build community with the seeker? 

 6. What characterizes the community the monks built among themselves? 

 7. How did the monks build community with those who eventually joined the order?

Leadership Thought: How Vulnerable Are We Willing to Be?

Dear Friends,

Honesty and accountability seem to be so rare these days. I find myself longing to hear a politician say, "I was wrong," or "I made a mistake." But while we may criticize our leaders for their lack of transparency, how transparent, open, and honest are we. While acknowledging  transparency’s  virtue, we often avoid it ourselves,  choosing instead to hide behind a cloak of secrecy. We expect it from others but not from ourselves.

I remember the words of a leader saying to me when I was discussing a mistake I made, “Don’t ever reveal your soft underbelly or they will take advantage of you." I will never forget those words, for they were so contrary to what I believed and always had tried to practice.

I confess that it is not easy for me to admit when I am wrong. I admire transparency in others, but I sometimes cringe when I have to practice it myself. 

While it can be dangerous to be honest, open and vulnerable,  I believe transparency is a critical quality for authentic leaders to possess. The more open and willing we are to admit our mistakes, the more people will believe us. It is a fact of life.

I don’t learn much from people who appear to have it all together. I learn the most from the fellow struggler who is honest enough to admit to me, “been there, done that, and this is what I learned from my mistake.”

It has been said that a strong leader accepts blame and gives credit, and a weak leader gives blame and accepts credit. In the light of this statement, I would say that King David passes the test of an authentic leader.

When confronted by Nathan, he honestly acknowledged  his adultery with Bathsheba. I am the man. “I have sinned greatly against the Lord” (2 Samuel 12:13). When he failed to follow the advice of his advisors and instead called for a census of the people, only to discover God’s displeasure in doing so, he honestly acknowledges his sin. David was conscious stricken after he had counted the fighting men, and he said to the Lord, “I have sinned greatly in what I have done. Now, O Lord, I beg you, take away the guilt of your servant. I have done a very foolish thing” (2 Samuel 24:10).

If we are to be a good team member, we will need to be open with others on the team. They will always need to know our hearts.

It has been well said that being “humble involves the willingness to be reckoned a failure in everyone’s sight but Gods.”

I hope I can be that humble, and I know you do to.

Yours in faith and friendship,

Tom

Leadership Thought: I'm at 23 and Still Adding to My Thankful List.

Dear Friends, 

 A while ago I sat down and began to develop a  "Thankful List." It wasn't on Thanksgiving that I began preparing my list, in fact, it was around Easter, and this morning I pulled the list up on my computer screen. I read through it again, and then sent it to my wife and children who are featured on my list. My list is not complete and in just a few minutes this Thanksgiving morning, I am going to add a few more items to my list. 

Doing this  "Thankful" Thanksgiving exercise provides me a wonderful reminder of how my life has been so blessed as I stand on the doorstep of year 80. My list contains 23 items and dates back to my high school days, and it includes the names of a number of people, some who presently receive this Leadership Thought. 

It is a wonderful thing to sit down and take stock of your life and to remember how blessed you really are. Oh, I know there have been a few bumps in the road in all our lives. There have been health issues, financial struggles, relational challenges and other concerns and events that have stretched and challenged us, but we are still alive and that should be near the top of any one of our "Thankful Lists."

Below I share the first 7 items on my list. I hope this will prime your pump to do the same. Every one of us has a long list of things for which to be grateful, however, you  seldom will appreciate them, unless and until,  you sit down, write them out and reflect upon them. And once you do this, take a moment to pray and give thanks for each of them. 

God loves you and wants the very best for you, and any challenges you have faced in life have only made you stronger and  enabled you to be kinder and more sensitive to those who have traveled your same journey. So have a blessed day and start writing, and don’t forget the words of the Apostle Paul who exhorts us to, "Rejoice always, pray continually, and give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus" (1 Thess. 5:16-18).

Happy Thanksgiving!

Yours in faith and friendship,

Tom

Partial Thankful List

I am thankful that in 1962 I personally accepted Jesus Christ and that decision was the greatest  decision I have ever made in my life. I am thankful for Jesus, and His love for me and the way He has guided and directed my life in the years following that decision.

I am thankful that the Lord brought Jean into my life, and for her love for me and for the way she has loved and helped raise our four children and now our ten grandchildren.

I am thankful for the incredible care and concern our children have shown for their mom and dad during our life but especially during our present health challenges.

I am thankful for my children and the fact that they are all so caring and concerned about the needs of others, and that they are all teachers who have used their position to touch and influence so many other lives. 

I am thankful that the Lord has enabled me to celebrate 79 birthdays, and that He has given me the opportunity to love and be loved by so many people over 50 years of ministry.

I am thankful for cancer, yes, I know it sounds strange, but cancer has given me a greater appreciation for life and a deeper compassion for those who suffer. It has also driven me to try and squeeze as much out of life as I can in whatever time the Lord has left for me.

I am thankful that the Lord has given me such a great desire to grow and learn more about my relationship with Him, and to grow in my understanding of how I can be a better person and more effective in leading more people to Christ.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Leadership Thought: Do You Have a Friend Who Calls You Buddy?

Dear Friends,

I have a friend with whom I served in ministry at Calvary Chapel, Old Bridge, who used to call me "bud," short for buddy. I like knowing I am his "buddy" and that my friend sees me as someone he can count on. No matter where you are or whatever obstacles you face, you need a "buddy" you can count on to help you through whatever challenges your face.

When a Navy Seal parachutes into hostile territory, there are three questions he must ask, "where am I, where is my enemy, and where is my buddy?” It is your buddy who can help you discover where you are, and it is your buddy who can help you identify your enemy and fight your way out. Without a buddy, you are in a heap of trouble. 

Seals know the critical importance of being a buddy and always being there for one another. And like Seals who are trained to recognize the critical value of "another," we too must recognize the value of having a buddy we can count on. The more buddies we have the better off our lives will be. 

The church is to be a place where "buddies" are found, and where such connections will ultimately serve as reinforcements for those times when things are just too tough for us to handle by ourselves.

Wherever I have pastored I have always tried to foster a buddy system on staff where each staff member is always there for each other, and where we function as family. My hope is that the same kind of buddy system exists within the church. We really do need a buddy or buddies in our lives, and what better place to find our buddy than in the church.  We need to be united with one another. The late saint Corrie Ten Boom was fond of saying, "A wall with loose bricks is not good. The bricks must be cemented together," and so what is true of a wall is true of church. We too must be cemented together in fellowship.

I recently received a note from Pat Killorin, a former high school friend who is now involved as a hospice volunteer. As such, he is always seeking to make new friends, "buddies" if you will, with those dealing with life threatening illnesses. He reminded me that “friends are quiet angels who lift us to our feet when our wings have trouble remembering how to fly.”

Do you have one of those special “buddies” for whom you are especially thankful, one who has helped lift you to your feet when you needed someone to help you fly. Why not drop them a “thanksgiving” note, or better yet pick up the phone and give them a call and thank them for being one of your buddies.

Yours in faith and friendship,

Tom

P.S. Just a reminder, "A Friend loves at all times" (Proverbs 17:17).