Category Archives: Focus

Productivity not activity; Results not Rhetoric. Focus not Facades.

Is Your Success Stunting Your Growth?

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When you’re starting out in something new, you are painfully aware of your shortcomings and faults. You see your mistakes. You realize that there is so much that you don’t know. It can be an overwhelming and discouraging feeling that makes you quit or it can be the fertile ground that breeds productive action for a good leader. When you’re unsure, you ask more questions, study longer and harder and practice with more intentionality.

But something happens over time. As a friend of mine says, “The game slows down.” Like a major league slugger, you see the curveball coming, you know where the strike zone is, you get more confident in your ability to impact the game. If you do well, there may even be those who come alongside you to applaud your efforts. You may be financially rewarded to the point that you can pursue your aspirations and enjoy things that make you more comfortable—the extra cable channels, the trips to the massage parlor or salon, the extended lunch breaks, the trips out of town. Enjoying the fruit of a job well done is no sin and should be done within reason. However, I have observed in myself and others that even the slightest tint of success can cause us to become blind to the many areas where we need to improve.

Success in one area of life can even validate the idea that “whatever I’m doing must be working,” which is a dangerous conclusion to land at. In anything, success is often a product of timing and context as much as it is the result of any one person’s individualized efforts. The classic example is the man or woman who is excelling at work but failing at home. But what about the other ways that success in one area masks underlying issues of character development or obedience to God?

Don’t let success blind you to the things you know you need to work on. At the end of the day, we all stand before God and will give an account to Him.

Don’t Hold Back! Ambition & Father Abraham

Don't Hold Back1After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here am I.” 2He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” 3So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. 4On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar. 5Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.” 6And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son. And he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So they went both of them together. 7And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here am I, my son.” He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” 8Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together. 9When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. 11But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here am I.” 12He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” 13And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14So Abraham called the name of that place, “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.” 15And the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven 16and said, “By myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, 18and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.”  — Genesis 22:1-18

I love how sudden and urgent God’s call is to Abraham (v. 1). I can imagine God in Heaven sitting, thinking about the reality of what will have to happen to Jesus—that his one and only, beloved Son will have to come to earth to die a horrible, substitutionary death for mankind and in the emotion of it calling Abraham—maybe louder than usual and in a tone that communicated His anguish concerning the pending murder of his Son. The tone of it comforts me because it gives me the impression that God may be more like me than I think. I have things that happen that I don’t particularly look forward to. I have times when I am emotionally engaged. I yell sometimes! 🙂

When God said that He made us in His image and likeness, I’m not sure we believe Him because we act like He must be so different from us that we can’t relate to Him. To be sure, God is “holy” — which is to be “other than” or “different from”. He is holy and that is the quality and trait of his that we most lack. But, in that we have a personality and can think and feel and reason and choose, we are very much like God. God has built us to be able to engage with Him as His children and as friends. It would shock you very much if my two kids had as much in common with me as dogs or plants or chairs. It’s ridiculous to imagine. So, I wonder why we have such a hard time thinking that, just as I can relate to my young children and they can relate to me, and just as they can look at me to imagine their future selves, so we can look to God in the face of Christ to imagine what we are growing up to be. Christ is our big brother and God is our Father. But I digress…

At that time on earth, Abraham was probably God’s closest human friend. When God thought of the human race, he no doubt thought of His friend Abraham. So, in considering the future sacrifice of Jesus, I believe God arranged for His friend Abraham to taste in some small way the cup of anguish that God would drink completely. Thus, the “test” of Genesis 22 which in many ways foreshadows the crucifixion of Jesus.

Abraham & Isaac God & Jesus
Ishmael had been sent away so Isaac was the only hope for a son that would fulfill the promise. Adam had been sent away so Jesus was the only hope for a way to restore right relationship between God and man.
Isaac was to be totally consumed as an offering for sin (a burnt offering) on a mountain Jesus was totally given as a sacrifice for sin on a mountain (Calvary)
On the third day, Abraham saw the mountain where Isaac would be offered, ending that part of the journey and bringing them to the place where the ultimate climax of this story would take place. On the third day, God raised Jesus from the dead. Jesus walked out of a rocky tomb. The empty grave then became the place where the climax of this part of Jesus’ story would take place.
Though two others are present, there is a very personal feel to Abraham leading Isaac up the mountain, and tying him up and holding in his hand the knife and fire. Though others are present (Pilate, Sadducees, Pharisees, the angry mob), there is a very personal feel to Jesus saying, “My God, My God, why have YOU forsaken me.”
Others carry the wood to the sacrifice but Isaac carries the wood the final leg of the journey up the hill to the place of sacrifice. Simon of Cyrene carries the wood (the cross) to the point of sacrifice but Jesus carries the wood the final leg of the journey to the hill of sacrifice.

But as similar as these two stories are, there is a crucial difference between the journey of Abraham with his son and the journey of God with His Son—God allowed Abraham to hold back but He would not allow Himself the same restraint.

[How great is the love our God has lavished on us at His own pain and expense!]

What I love about Abraham is that he did not hold back! He could have decided not to take his son to the sacrifice. He could have chosen not to obey the voice of God but he did. Graciously, God allowed Him to hold back but Abraham was willing to go all the way.

What about me? What about you? Will you go hard for the cause of Christ? Will you demonstrate the same commitment to the cause as God demonstrated? Will you give that which is most precious to you as Abraham did?

I should. You should. The fruit of Abraham’s obedience is recorded in verses 15-18 and because it was spoken aloud, I believe Isaac was able to hear it. Later in life, I’m sure Isaac reflected on the example of faith his father had demonstrated and I’m sure it was a motivating and guiding moment in his life.

The fruit of God’s all-out sacrifice is that billions of people have been brought into a loving relationship with their heavenly Dad who loves them and missed them.

God is good. His cause is a worthy one. You and I have a part to play. Don’t hold back!

David Platt and Francis Chan: Multiply

David Platt and Francis Chan have been a great encouragement to many of us in the last few years. This video on discipleship is sure to encourage you. Enjoy!

Your 2013 Goal Check-Up

2013-Target-GoalToday is the last day of the first month of the year. Rewind just 30 days ago to January 1, 2013. The natural energy, zeal and sense of renewal that come with each new year are fading and tomorrow, February begins. So, before the year ebbs away, let’s talk: How are you doing with your 2013 goals?

The question does assume a few things that we should review:

1. Do you need goals?

There was some backlash this year about goal-setting cleverly couched as “anti-resolutions”; the idea being that if you don’t call it a resolution then you won’t fail. Others suggested that we ignore the instinctual push a new year gives to evaluate the past and make a declaration about our futures. Friends, you and I need goals. Jesus had a goal. Paul had a goal. Without a goal, we are aimless and drifting. Life is less satisfying and we are poor stewards of the gift of life.

2. Have you documented your goals?

A goal without a plan is a pipe-dream! Write your goals down. Attach a WHY to the goal that is bigger than you but includes you and comes from God. Then, schedule your celebration stops. When I get “here” I’m going to get “this” prize (a milkshake, a new pair of jeans, a new car?!”). Seriously, write down your goals—the statistics are overwhelming that people who set goals significantly over-achieve those that do not.

C:workspaceDesigns11-8100s81361-8136-55-1 Model (1)3. Are you monitoring your progress?

Who is going to win the SuperBowl? Without a scoreboard and a time clock, no one would! Your life has a scoreboard that Heaven keeps and a time clock that races to your final end. The thing is you don’t know how long your clock will tick. Here’s what I recommend, create a scoreboad that accounts for your purpose. What are you here for? Write down a few key things you know that you’re supposed to be doing and be FAITHFUL to work on that each day. Mark your progress and celebrate when you hit your goals.

Today is a time for review. Add urgency to living out your mission in life. Add accountability to your goals to ensure productive activity. Add planned celebrations as a reward to keep the sacrifices in perspective.

And, in case no one has told you yet this year…believe that you can. As Phil. 4:13 declares “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”