Run To Wait

My wife is a fan of the TV show (and movie) Downton Abbey, which means I have come to appreciate it as well. I think Mr. Carson, the head butler, gives us some great insight into a Christian’s prayer relationship with God. 

Mr. Carson has a lot to oversee with the house, the staff, and the needs of the family members and their guests. Everything needs to be tidy and ready at all times for both important guests and the Grantham family. That means Mr. Carson has to have a schedule and routine for everything. 

He doesn’t get up in the morning and sit around waiting for someone to tell him what to do—he gets up and gets to work. He’s a busy man with a lot of responsibilities. But can you imagine if Lord or Lady Grantham came to him with a request and he responded, “Not now, I’m too busy with my To Do list”? No way! He’s their servant, so he quickly responds, “Yes, my lord.” 

Christians can so busy and hurried with our own “To Do list” that we miss out on what’s really important. As Rick Warren then noted, “Hurry is the death of prayer!” 

The dictionary defines hurry as acting in haste, usually in a state of urgency, or feeling rushed. Notice the word “urgency” in the definition. Far too often we confuse urgent things and important things. It’s not that what we’re busy with are bad things, but perhaps we are busy with things that are keeping us blind to the important things. 

Long before Mr. Carson, there was another notable servant named Abraham (Genesis 18:1-8). God showed up and Abraham wanted to be in His presence. So notice that Abraham had to run to wait to God’s presence—the narrative uses words like hurried, “quick” and ran.  

Abraham was quick to get into God’s presence SO THAT he could linger in God’s presencehe stood near Them under a tree: that’s the posture of a servant-in-waiting. 

In the NIV translation, the text says Abraham hurried, but almost every other translation says he ran to meet Them—this is an important distinction. Hurry speaks to things that are urgent, but run speaks to things that are important. 

Stephen Covey has a great diagram that helps us identify four important quadrants in our life:

As you place items from your life on this grid, our Prayer Coach—the Holy Spirit—can help us identify the time-wasters. The key is to find time to wait in prayer. The best place to make time for Quadrant II prayer comes from Quadrant IV. As you eliminate those time-wasters, you will be able to spend health-enhancing time in prayer, worship, planning, and self-care in Quadrant II. This will also better equip you to handle the Quadrant I crises as they appear.

Ultimately, like Mr. Carson, we need to be both proactive with our schedule and responsive to the requests of our Lord. A good daily posture for all of us is “If the Lord wills” (James 4:13-17). But we have to not be so distracted with unimportant things that we can hear what God is speaking to our hearts.

Please join me next week as we continue to uncover things that could derail our regular prayer times, and then strategize a plan for dealing with them.  

Don’t Try To Change Your Bad Behavior

Thoughts to beahviorsAs I wrote previously, I believe Christians should be the best at getting along with others. First of all, Christians have been empowered by the Holy Spirit with the skills necessary to live at peace with everyone, IF we will only allow the Spirit to do the necessary work in us. And second, the way Christians treat others goes a long way toward either attracting or repelling others from a relationship with Jesus.

But here’s an important thing: If you don’t get along well with others now, don’t try to change your behavior!

Stephen Covey wrote, “To try to change outward behaviors does very little good in the long run if I fail to examine the basic paradigms from which those attitudes and behaviors flow.”

You see, behavior is the fruit. If we want to change the fruit, we need to back up a few steps.

The Apostle Paul used the life of Jesus as an example for Christians on how we can get along with others. But notice this: most of what Paul discusses is the “inside stuff.”

The progression goes like this (see Philippians 2:1-13)—

Thoughts → Values → Attitudes → Behaviors

(1) Thoughts—These need to be humble thoughts about God’s love toward us (v. 1).

(2) Values—Paul tells us to be “one in spirit and purpose” with others (v. 2). The definition of the Greek words here mean valuing the well-being of everyone. Paul then explains how our humility can lead to these win-win relationships (vv. 3, 4).

(3) Attitudes—“Your attitude should be the same as Christ Jesus” (v. 5). Jesus showed us what it was to have an attitude related toward obedience to God’s will.

(4) Behavior—If our thoughts, values and attitudes are rightly aligned to God, then our behavior will naturally be Christ-like as well. We see the example of Jesus in verses 6-8, and God’s reward for that behavior in verses 9-11. Then Paul calls on Christians to follow that pattern in our own lives (vv. 12, 13).

Most decent, reasonably-thinking human beings share the same values. Harry Truman said, “When we understand the other fellow’s viewpoint—understand what he is trying to do—nine times out of ten he is trying to do right.”

The problem is this: When the other person behaves differently from me, my natural tendency is to assume he doesn’t value what I value. In other words, I’m judging his value system on the way I normally behave.

The break-down is in my attitude. That’s the area I need to address. That’s the attribute of Jesus that Paul told us to copy.

So if I want to get along better with others, I shouldn’t try to change my behavior, but my attitude. My prayer should be: “I want this same attitude to be in me which was also in Christ Jesus. He served God and others, so I too want to follow His example of obedience, and I want to demonstrate my appreciation for all that Jesus has done for me by working hard to better get along with others. Help me change my attitude!”

Check out this video of the full message…

I hope you can join us next Sunday as we continue learning how to get along with others. Please join us in person or on Periscope.

23 Quotes From “The 5 Levels Of Leadership”

5 Levels of LeadershipThere is always so much rich content in a John Maxwell book, and The 5 Levels Of Leadership is no exception. You can read my full book review by clicking here. These are a few of the quotes that especially caught my attention. Unless otherwise noted, these quotes are from John Maxwell.

“At any level, a leader doesn’t automatically stay at that level. You must earn your level of leadership with each person, and that level can go up or down at any time.” 

“You have no control over how much talent you possess. You control only what you do with it.”

“Leadership is accepting people where they are, then taking them somewhere.” —C.W. Perry 

“Often to make themselves look better or to keep people from rising up and threatening them, positional leaders make other people feel small. How?

  • By not having a genuine belief in them.
  • By assuming people can’t instead of assuming they can.
  • By assuming people won’t rather than believing they will.
  • By seeing their problems more readily than their potential.
  • By viewing them as liabilities instead of assets.”

“Anytime you think you’ve arrived—whether your position is the lowest or the highest in the organization—you’ve lowered your expectations for yourself, sold your leadership short, and fallen into a no-growth mind-set.”  

“Above all else, good leaders are open. They go up, down, and around their organizations to reach people. They don’t stick to established channels. They’re informal. They’re straight with people. They make a religion out of being accessible.” —JackWelch

“You see, when there is danger, a good leader takes the front line. But when there is celebration, a good leader stays in the back room. If you want the cooperation of human beings around you, make them feel that they are important. And you do that by being humble.” —Nelson Mandela 

“People will not get ahead with others unless they are willing to work behind others.”

“[Good leaders] have more than an open-door policy—they know the door swings both ways. They go through it and get out among their people to connect.” 

“If you want to be successful on Level 2, you must think less in terms of systems and more in terms of people’s emotions. You must think more in terms of human capacity and less in terms of regulations. You must think more in terms of buy-in and less in terms of procedures. In other words, you must think of people before you try to achieve progress.”

“Care without candor creates dysfunctional relationships. Candor without care creates distant relationships. But care balanced with candor creates developing relationships. …Caring values the person while candor values the person’s potential. …Caring establishes the relationship while candor expands the relationship. … Caring defines the relationship while candor directs the relationship.” 

“Before having a candid conversation, make sure you can answer yes to the following questions:

  • Have I invested enough in the relationship to be candid with them?
  • Do I truly value them as people?
  • Am I sure this is their issue and not mine?
  • Am I sure I’m not speaking up because I feel threatened?
  • Is the issue more important than the relationships?
  • Does this conversation clearly serve their interests and not just mine?
  • Am I willing to invest time and energy to help them change?
  • Am I willing to show them how to do something, not just say what’s wrong?
  • Am I willing and able to set clear, specific expectations?”

“If achieving the vision is worth building the team, it is also worth risking the relationship. Building relationships and then risking them to advance the team creates tension for the leader. That tension will force you to make a choice: to shrink the vision or to stretch the people to reach it. If you want to do big things, you need to take people out of their comfort zones. They might fail. They might implode. They might relieve their own tension by fighting you or quitting. Risk always changes relationships. If you risk and win, then your people gain confidence. You have shared history that makes the relationship stronger. Trust increases. And the team is ready to take on even more difficult challenges. However, if you risk and fail, you lose relational credibility with your people and you will have to rebuild the relationships. Risk is always present in leadership. Anytime you try to move forward, there is risk. Even if you’re doing the right things, your risk isn’t reduced. But there is no progress without risk, so you need to get used to it.” 

“You can issue all the memos and give all the motivational speeches you want, but if the rest of the people in your organization don’t see you putting forth your very best effort every single day, they won’t either.” —Colin Powell

“The job of a leader is to build a complementary team, where every strength is made effective and each weakness is made irrelevant.” —Stephen Covey

“If you want to be an effective leader, you must move from perfectionist to pragmatist.”

“Since you can’t prevent mistakes, why not adopt and attitude in which you and your team learn from them?” 

“The individual leads in order that those who are led can develop their potential as human beings and thereby prosper.” —Socrates

“The highest goal of leadership is to develop leaders, not gain followers or do work.”

“Leadership is an opportunity to serve.” —J. Donald Walters

“No matter where you are in your leadership journey, never forget that what got you to where you are won’t get you to the next level.” 

“The reality is that no one is indispensable. Worse, allowing others to become dependent does little more that satisfy a leader’s ego. It is a very limiting leadership style that has a very short life span. The first step in developing leaders is to have a desire to develop people so that they can succeed without you. …If you want to develop people, you must help them discover and build upon their strengths. That’s where people have the most potential to grow. Helping to develop their strengths is the only way to help leaders become world-class.”

“What you do daily, over time, becomes your legacy.”

Sharp Enough?

Long before Stephen Covey wrote about Habit 7: Sharpening The Saw, Solomon saw the value of taking time to sharpen the saw.

Using a dull ax requires great strength, so sharpen the blade. That’s the value of wisdom; it helps you succeed. (Ecclesiastes 10:10)

What are you doing TODAY to gain wisdom?

J. Wilbur Chapman asked F.B. Meyer, “What is the matter with me? So many times I fail, so many times I am powerless.”

Dr. Meyer responded, “Have you ever tried breathing out three times without breathing in once?”

What are you doing TODAY to breathe in?

Look at the mower in the summer’s day, with so much to cut down ere the sun sets. He pauses in his labor — is he a sluggard? He looks for his stone, and begins to draw it up and down his scythe, with rink-atink, rink-atink, rink-atink. Is that idle music — is he wasting precious moments? How much he might have mowed while he has been ringing out those notes on his scythe! But he is sharpening his tool. And he will do far more when once again he gives his strength to those long sweeps which lay the grass prostrate in rows before him. — Charles Spurgeon

What are you doing TODAY to sharpen yourself?

Final Words

I’m working on a message for a funeral that I will speak at tomorrow. It’s very humbling to think that a family has chosen me to say the final words about their loved one. How do I accurately sum up someone’s life in just a few minutes?

This process always gets me thinking about what final words I would want to have said about my life. I have three passages in the Bible that I would love to have said about me —

He had no great joy than knowing his family all walks in the truth. (3 John 4)

He always took the spiritual truths that he heard and taught and entrusted them to reliable people who were also qualified to teach others. (2 Timothy 2:2)

He fought the good fight, he finished the race, he kept the faith. (2 Timothy 4:7)

What about you? What final words do you want people to say at the end of your life?

Stephen Covey wisely advises us to begin with the end in mind. See your goal — your final words — clearly fixed in your mind now, then live to fulfill it.

“And Then He Died…”

That’s the end of his life. All those years living and that’s all his obituary says.

Genesis 5 is the lineage of Adam. A mind-numbing list of names and years scroll by:

  • Adam lived 930 years, and then he died.
  • His son Seth lived 912 years, and then he died.
  • His son Enosh lived 905 years, and then he died.
  • His son Kenan lived 910 years, and then he died.
  • His son Mahalalel lived 895 years, and then he died.
  • His son Jared lived 962 years, and then he died.
  • And on and on and on….

For each man we hear the name of one of his sons and how long he lived, but nothing more. Like a modern-day tombstone:

Birth Date Death Date

The dash between the dates covers the childhood, schooling, marriage, inventions, parenthood, and so many other things. But years later, more and more of the details are forgotten and only the dash remains to represent the sum total of the deceased’s life.

And then comes Enoch.

All of the same details are there. Well, except for the and then he died epitaph. But actually there’s so much more. Instead of a death, there’s a phrase that appears only for him: “Enoch walked with God.” The phrase literally means, “to be continually conversant.”

Because Enoch lived this way, he didn’t really die. Instead, “He was no more.” He wasn’t here any longer because he is still walking with God. What an incredible blessing to his future generations! He was a blessing while he was alive, and he continues to be a blessing after he is no more.

Enoch’s tombstone reads differently from everyone else. It’s the way I would want my tombstone to read:

Craig T. Owens

1966  He Walked With God He Is Still Walking With God

In The Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People Stephen Covey suggests living my life today consistent with what I would like said at my own funeral. It starts with a decision: “Today I will be continually conversant with God.” Then at my funeral they can say of me, like the Bible says of Enoch: “He didn’t die. He’s just not here any longer. He is walking with God in heaven, just like he walked with Him here on earth.”

What do you want said about your dash? Do you want your life to simply end with “And then he died”? Do you want something more? Make your dash a continual conversation, a daily walk, with God, and all of your future generations won’t see just a dash, they’ll remember “He is no more. He walked with God, and is still walking with God!

Start today!

Everyday Greatness (book review)

Everyday Greatness

I have read almost everything that Stephen Covey has written, so when I saw this newest title — Everyday Greatness — with his name on it, I was really looking forward to it. I know the classic rule is “Never judge a book by its cover,” but I admit I broke this rule!

When I saw “Stephen Covey” on the cover I was prepared for his typical thought-provoking insights. Instead what I got in Everyday Greatness was anecdotal support of Covey’s profound teachings from other authors. I was pleasantly surprised by this.

The premise of this book is similar to Covey’s other books; namely, you have the power to make the choices that will make your life more effective, more fulfilling, and more beneficial to those around you. Everyday Greatness reinforces this message by letting you hear Covey’s thoughts through the stories of “everyday people.”

The book is divided up into seven categories that everyday people live each day —

  • Searching for meaning
  • Taking charge
  • Starting within
  • Creating the dream
  • Teaming with others
  • Overcoming adversity
  • Blending the pieces

Each of these seven categories is supported by three principles, and each of these principles are illustrated by three short stories and a few pages of noteworthy quotes. So in essence Everyday Greatness presents Covey’s thoughts in 63 short stories and several pages memorable quotes.

Stories are so much more effective at driving a point home than is a lecture, and these stories are the perfect length for anyone. This is a book I’ll keep handy on my shelf so I can return to these stories time and time again. An excellent read!

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