A Weekly Diet for Running the Good Race

The Training Table

The Training Table is set, and the menu carefully selected to regularly nourish those who are running the good race set out for us. If you would like to maintain a weekly diet for running the good race, please subscribe to The Training Table.

Why the Training Table?
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scoming its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart (1 Corinthians 9:24; Galatians 5:7; Hebrews 12:1-3; 2 Timothy 4:7).”

Posted in Training Table

“Got Fog?” Go Back to the Fundamentals

Welcome marathoners in and for Christ. (1 Corinthians 9:24; Hebrews 12:1; 2 Timothy 4:7) Exhausted, depleted from running the Godly, good, and being-a-blessing-to-others race? Welcome. Sit. Relax. Let’s feast.

Feast of the Heart exists to help bring about Christ-centered “reformation, revival, and constructive revolution” (Francis Schaeffer, Death in the City) so that God will be glorified and people blessed.

Reformation… we seek to abide by and serve up the true truth, pure doctrine of the Bible

Revival… we seek to model biblical Christians living in word and deed

Constructive Revolution… we seek to spread the true gospel right where God has planted us with urgency, compassion, and radical self-abandonment

God’s Uses “Fog”, Trials, Suffering, Brokenness, and Perplexities of All Sorts… First:

To Encourage Us to Get Back to the Fundamentals of the Faith

  1. God is always at work around you.
  2. God pursues a continuing love relationship with you that is real and personal.
  3. God invites you to become involved with Him in His work.
  4. God speaks by the Holy Spirit through the Bible, prayer, the community, circumstances, and the church to reveal Himself His purposes, and His ways.
  5. God’s invitation for you to work with Him always leads you to a crisis of belief that requires faith and action.
  6. You must make major adjustments in your life to join God in what He is doing.
  7. You come to know God by experience as you love and obey Him and He accomplishes His work through you.

(“Knowing and Doing The Will of God”, Blackaby & King)

 

Amen.

JohnDoz

Posted in Training Table

Perseverance Begets Perseverance: Will We Finish What God Begins?

Welcome marathoners in and for Christ. (1 Corinthians 9:24; Hebrews 12:1; 2 Timothy 4:7) Exhausted, depleted from running the Godly, good, and being-a-blessing-to-others race? Welcome. Sit. Relax. Let’s feast.

Feast of the Heart exists to help bring about Christ-centered “reformation, revival, and constructive revolution” (Francis Schaeffer, Death in the City) so that God will be glorified and people blessed.

Reformation… we seek to abide by and serve up the true truth, pure doctrine of the Bible

Revival… we seek to model biblical Christians living in word and deed

Constructive Revolution… we seek to spread the true gospel right where God has planted us with urgency, compassion, and radical self-abandonment

All That Preceded Man In Creation Is Part of Humankind

In the five days that led up to God’s creation of all humankind’s predecessors in Adam and Eve on the sixth day, all that God created had an effect on how all of humanity was designed by God. God by no means wasted or trivialized or was “just getting warmed up” prior to creating His consummate creation: mankind, Image Bearers of Himself. God’s culmination was, in fact, an accumulation.

Let’s take one of my favorite examples called, “The Law of the Farm”: every aspect of God’s creation on Day 3 in the realms of soil creation, management, the production of foods, crops, fruits, and all things from the land that the we sow and reap in all sorts of wonderful and nutritious ways SHOWS UP in the cause and effect interaction so named and numerously warned of in the Bible, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.” (Galatians 6:7) Every thought, word, and deed we partake in results in a predictable cause and effect outcome. It follows like summer follows spring or the tides follow the phases of the moon.

Sowing and reaping impacts persevering as well: if we want to run a full marathon a few 10K’s along the way is highly recommended; if we want to aspire to performing Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 3 we had better “sow and reap on the ivories” 10,000+ times; if we want to achieve excellence in the marketplace as an entrepreneur we’re going to have to put aside all play for a good deal of time; and if we want to be more like Christ we must be more than mindful of both fruitfulness and the mortification of sin—stewarded well, season in and season out, both fruitfulness and sinlessness build over time. It’s organic.

No doubt one would have to read the likes of Lawrence’s book [above] to grasp the wonder and implications of this truth about God’s creation and the astoundingly consistent laws that accrue from it. And, YES, whether we acknowledge it, or embrace it, or like it, or not. It’s simply the Truth and Love of GOD we need to tightly grasp, unpack, live out… or kick against it until we’re worn out, right?

Just as God said, “I AM”, His creative principles, process, and patterns ARE. Rather than conjure up what we want, and shoehorn God into our own imaginations and desires, it’s far better for us to love and envelop all God has done, and then seek following after that: It’s simply a more reasonable and satisfying, life-affirming theology.

Got Perseverance? One Place I Go? Rucky Chucky!

We absolutely must accept the fact that when [NOT IF] God brings us to a challenging place where endurance, perseverance, grit, dedication, stamina is required, He’s doing so to first break us down, in order to build us up… for strength upon strength, fruitfulness upon fruitfulness, humility upon humility, holiness upon holiness, Christlikeness upon Christlikeness.

“No pain; no gain.” is absolutely true. And from the Holy Spirit, the One Who uses the unavoidable suffering of this broken world to help us mature, persevere, in order to proffer, extend Who the Spirit points to, Jesus Christ’s, grace to others.

“Let us understand that God is a physician, and that suffering is a medicine for salvation, sanctification, not a punishment for damnation.” (St. Augustine)

As an inordinately stubborn sinner saved by grace, and an endurance athlete, I have been through many challenging trials that I stayed in, got through, and grown by SO THAT I could aim higher and do it better the next time: I sowed sticking to it, and reaped a sanctified endurance… for lots of crud from my own sinful desires, this broken and dark world, as well as my own desire to “go the distance”—running, at points in time, 100+ miles a week in the mountains of Colorado and elsewhere. I persevered through pain after pain so that pain was no longer a stranger or something to AVOID.

And this is key: Pastor Tim Keller puts it like this, “If we’re put off like the world when pain comes, so surprised that all we do is stand paralyzed and aghast like the world does, we cannot be used of God to save and serve others in any sort of pain. Being surprised by suffering is one thing, but if we’re surprised by our surprise we’ve simply forgotten, or never knew why suffering exists and what the reality of this broken world consists of… and how Christ-followers are used in it.”

“While other worldviews lead us to sit in the midst of life’s joys, foreseeing the coming sorrows, Christianity empowers its people to sit in the midst of this world’s sorrows, tasting the coming joy.” (Tim Keller, Walking with God through Pain and Suffering)

Now more than ever, this world needs more thoroughly sanctified sufferers—disciples more like Jesus—more effective resources of light and salt.

If we don’t move through any pain to its redemptive end and fruit on the far side of the journey, we will be ill-equipped to face the reality of brokenness and redemption God has in store for His Beloved—in the smallest paper-cut of pain to the worse heartbreak imaginable, God has a good end in mind (Rom 8:28), which is refinement, conformity to the likeness of His Son. NOT simply the relief of the pain! God’s not into self-help; He’s into soul transformation for the holy benefit, blessing of self… to the glory of God and for the sake of others.

As odd as it sounds, and in a sublimely practical way, today when I’m facing a spiritual, emotional, psychological, or physical trial that I must work through, “I go to Rucky Chucky:” a particular place along the Western States 100 mile trail race where the race entrant I was pacing for 60 miles practically died. In the middle of the night the river crossing looked like a scene out of Apocalypse Now: it was a war zone of endurance and anguish that I’ll never forget.

And That’s My Main Point:

God offers “points of persevering” of this kind that we must endure and work through to their finish

…so that we REMEMBER and use the strength gained in faith again!

And again. And again. And again. Until we die or Christ returns.

Over the past 45 years, I’ve been blessed to have experienced hundreds of Rucky Chucky-like endurance-adventures. And this is NOT meant for boasting in ME, but rather in The One Who Endured for my sake so that I could do the same for His, Jesus Christ, and by His Spirit—and for those He has placed in my midst of my life. (2 Cor 1:3-7) If anything, and due to my sin and addictions to my early-life self, I’ve just needed to be reminded and refined more than others…

Respectfully offered, what is [or what are] your “Rucky Chucky story” of a redemptive trial that served to move you from strength to strength? This is vitally important for us to know… down to to a visceral, cathartic level of detail, tears, and rejoicing! Otherwise, either you don’t have anything to “fall back on” or you don’t have any “seeds and stems of perseverance” to grow more of it.

We Are Called to Persevere, Press On in Two Ways

  1. By God’s Providence: Those who are called, who are born again and in Christ, will persevere because The Trinity has secured, guaranteed their salvation forever. God’s elect will persevere to the end. As Paul wrote, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:12-14; Romans 8, emphasis added). This Christian teaching glorifies God in his kingly power to keep his children spiritually safe in his arms for all time. It is upon this platform of divine security that an adopted child of God joyfully, not fearfully, nourishes his, her relationship with Christ and freely, not full of guilt, serves him.
  2. By Our Partnership: But, in addition, those who are called and are in Christ will persevere because their refined, sanctified character has been shaped by the organic nature of the faith. It grows like a garden or fruitful farm when we care for it in kind: “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:5-8, emphasis added)

Father God, in Christ, and by the Spirit has providentially secured our, 1. perseverance and salvation to the end; but The Trinity has also provided His chosen ones, 2. a persevering role and a goal within His Plan of Redemption as well: a) to begin and end each trial while, b) garnering all its worth for our growth, maturity, Christlikeness, fruitfulness, and c) to “pay it forward” in service to and for others.

This is the cycle of KNOW, GROW and SOW…

…until we’re dead or Jesus returns.

Period.

“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” (James 1:12, emphasis added) Will we stand in the muck of life, suffering, trials of any kind LONG ENOUGH for the refinement God has for us in it?! Or will we run for it when either the anticipated or live trial is going on.

In the most pithy and yet powerful way, I recall many years back when I reached out to a handful of my Brothers in Christ for prayers in a time of deep pain. John Berry from Austin Texas was used of God to send the most worthy of pithy yet powerful responses: “Stay put!” That was all his email said… but it said it all.

Consider especially the organic nature of how STAYING PUT in our suffering produces joy “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4) What is the end result of such JOY? Wisdom and Christlikeness. “…that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

“Would that men might come at last to see that it is quite impossible to reach the thicket of the riches and wisdom of God except by first entering the thicket of much suffering, in such a way that the soul finds there its consolation and desire. The soul that longs for divine wisdom chooses first, and in truth, to enter the thicket of the cross.” (St. John of the Cross) No thorny thicket, cross = no wisdom, Christlikeness.

Don’t miss “The Law of the Farm” in James’ wisdom: seeing our suffering to the end, staying put, surrounding ourselves with a community of faith to see us through, embracing mourning and mortification in the way designed by God… all PRODUCES much fruit. Or not: nothing living comes forth when we leave any organic form of life to die. The volume of wasted tears could fill all the oceans of this earth; but the ones offered up to God are kept secured in a bottle near and dear to God! “You have taken account of my wanderings; Put my tears in Your bottle. Are they not in Your book?” (Psalm 56:8) THAT’S STUNNING AND ASTONISHING.

We Need to Commit to Finish What God Has Begun: Each Trial, Each Race, Each Relationship, Each Work, Play, Day

 

 

 

 

What is one sad and damaging hallmark of our day that we all can agree on? Yes, it’s a lack of commitment, sticktuitivenss, grit, gumption, fortitude, spine that extends to virtually every realm of our culture and private lives: far more often than not, when the going gets tough, the tough are few and far between… and quitting is all too common. 

And don’t miss this: When [not if] God offers us a maturing, strengthening, refining circumstance in life, and we choose to shortcut the journey in order to alleviate either the spiritual, emotional, psychological, or physical pain ASAP, we not ONLY lose the chance to grow in that moment, but The Law of the Farm teaches us that the NEXT offer God gives us to grow will be avoided… and EXPONENTIALLY so: darkness avoided makes not just every dark place more frightening, but the anticipation of any shadow as well. Until we won’t risk anything… anymore.

Because that’s how sowing and reaping works. “Ask [God] to give you patience that endures affliction, which, when it is tried, will come forth as gold.” (C.H. Spurgeon)

And yet, can we imagine ANY realm of life that actually works this way? There is not one thing in life that benefits from quitting early—every achievement at the highest level takes perseverance, not quitting, but finishing what we started.

When the next trial is allowed by God in your life, stay put; pray; go to God’s word via A.C.T.S. [Adoration. Confession. Thanksgiving. Supplication], get into a community of faith to intentionally and aggressively seek after what God has in store for your KNOWING [more of the Trinity], GROWING [in grace and Christlikeness], and SOWING [Christ in word and in deed].

If we will not stay put under pressure, no diamond will ever be formed, nor its beauty on display for this dark and fast-decaying world, Beloved.

Amen.

JohnDoz

Posted in Training Table

On Holistic Healing: The Great Physician Is In!

Welcome marathoners in and for Christ. (1 Corinthians 9:24; Hebrews 12:1; 2 Timothy 4:7) Exhausted, depleted from running the Godly, good, and being-a-blessing-to-others race? Welcome. Sit. Relax. Let’s feast.

Feast of the Heart exists to help bring about Christ-centered “reformation, revival, and constructive revolution” (Francis Schaeffer, Death in the City) so that God will be glorified and people blessed.

Reformation… we seek to abide by and serve up the true truth, pure doctrine of the Bible

Revival… we seek to model biblical Christians living in word and deed

Constructive Revolution… we seek to spread the true gospel right where God has planted us with urgency, compassion, and radical self-abandonment

A Feast of the Heart: On Holistic Healing

“Today, if you hear God’s voice, no not harden your heart…”  (Psalm 95:7-8)

Following is a letter from a young man by the name of Shane who had contracted AIDS. Shane was writing a letter to a dear friend (Bishop Michael Marshall) whom had brought Shane the Good News of Jesus Christ while he served in Shane’s church and while Shane lay terminally ill… and trying desperately to be healed by way of various physicians and medicines.

Shane writes about a medicine and cure offered uniquely from The Great Physician that he was blessed with and that healed him… at last! Not for time, just in time, and for eternity.

Shane wrote, “I will probably be in the hospital for at least another week.  I am confident I will recover from this illness.  I am blessed with many good friends.  Their love and support sustained me.  I have had from four to 10 visitors each day as well as phone calls and I know I am in their prayers.  Father Carlos came today and served communion.  God has many hands.

As you are keeping me in your prayers, each day you are in mine as well.  The mission you lead at my church was the most significant event in my life.  I thank God for the work you are doing.

I never thought of AIDS as a blessing, but now I have chosen to respond in that way because my faith is growing and deepening most certainly every day.  I believe my faith is the most important thing now.

My doctor can cure my infection possibly, but my faith and the love of Christ alone can heal me.  Even if my AIDS is not healed in this life I know that my transform spiritual body will be whole and healthy forever.  I look forward to our continued correspondence.  God bless you, Michael.

My love to you, in Christ, Shane.”

Shane died the following day…

I love, love, love this story! But do we have to wait until we’re near death to see we’re already dead devoid of a repentant, living relationship with Jesus Christ? No…  “Today, if you hear God’s voice, no not harden your heart…”  (Psalm 95:7-8) Please allow me to respectfully ask you something:

What do you believe is the greatest, most dire infection, disease, terminal illness any person can have? “Sickle-cell or no salvation?”

In what ways have you experienced your greatest dis-eases, sufferings to be your greatest blessings?

Have you been “holistically healed” by the Good News of the Gospel? In light of the fact that so many people we see everyday look so nicely dressed and outwardly fit… how do you maintain a sense of urgency about talking to others about our shared infection of Original Sin, alienation from God, and desperate need of a Savior from hell, and a Lord, to model our life after?

How do you, if you do, act as a witness of and for The Great Physician that offers hope and complete healing for anyone who will admit they need to be healed of their alienation from God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?

Not one of us have any guarantee for a tomorrow. TODAY… is the only day we’re given to offer another a word of timely and timeless healing and hope.

If you’re withholding a word when your heart is pricked to do so… please consider asking the Holy Spirit, yourself, and a trusted, faithful friend, why.

And please take care to avoid getting “A.I.D.S.”, my friends in Christ… and those who haven’t been born again as yet.

Apathy – Isolation – Delay – Silence

See you next week at The Training Table, beloved race runners in and for Christ,
JohnDoz

Born Againby R.C. Sproul

Born Again, by Burk Parsons

Posted in Training Table

Leaders, What’s Your “Go-To” in the OEM? Part 3 of 3

Welcome marathoners in and for Christ. (1 Corinthians 9:24; Hebrews 12:1; 2 Timothy 4:7) Exhausted, depleted from running the Godly, good, and being-a-blessing-to-others race? Welcome. Sit. Relax. Let’s feast.

Feast of the Heart exists to help bring about Christ-centered “reformation, revival, and constructive revolution” (Francis Schaeffer, Death in the City) so that God will be glorified and people blessed.

Reformation… we seek to abide by and serve up the true truth, pure doctrine of the Bible

Revival… we seek to model biblical Christians living in word and deed

Constructive Revolution… we seek to spread the true gospel right where God has planted us with urgency, compassion, and radical self-abandonment

Based upon the feasts of Part 1 and Part 2 at The Training Table, let’s pull some pieces together and lay down “the law of leadership” that cannot be escaped: The heart of the matter is a matter of the heart!

Step #1: Choose the Basis of What Hunormously Great… Or Simply Indispensable… Leadership Means to You

Here’s a fav of mine: “Effective, enduring and memorable leaders set a vision and use their authority to create an environment where people can contribute to the vision’s success and flourish doing so. Leaders are environmentalists.”  (John Gardner) That’ll work just great! Now let’s work it…

Akin to [really] believing that a corporate, organizational Vision-Mission is crafted, stewarded, executed in order to succeed, every leader and leadership team MUST have a Vision of what LEADERSHIP really and truly consists of… and then pursue the living daylights out of it in word and in deed!

Beginning with: The #1 responsibility of leadership is to execute the Vision-Mission of the organization. That’s the goal; doing it well is extraordinarily rare. Be extraordinary! Please.

Step #2: Choose Just ONE Standard Which Provides a Valid Basis for What Makes People Tick, Flourish at Work

Here’s the example we used in Part 2:

Gallup Research Workplace Audit:  The Most Important People Issues for Growing the Business [assuring success at any organization]

Top 11 verbatim related to the key satisfiers for people at work [any work], AND where each can fit in the Organizational Effectiveness Model—the “go-to” places for leaders:

  • “At work I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.” (OEM: Vision / Mission / Core Values / Alignment)
  • “The vision/mission and values of the company makes me feel my job contributes.” (OEM: Vision / Mission / Core Values / Strategic Roadmap / Alignment)
  • “I have a best friend at work.” (OEM: Core Values / Personal Responsibility)
  • “At work, my opinions seem to count.” (OEM: Core Values)
  • “My work associates are committed to doing quality work.” (OEM: Vision / Core Values / Personal Responsibility / Alignment / Job Performance Review Process)
  • “In the last year I have been given opportunities to learn and grow.” (OEM: Mission / Core Values / Alignment / Personal Responsibility)
  • “I have the resources I need to do my work right.” (OEM: Core Values / Strategic Roadmap)
  • “In the past seven days, I have received recognition or praise for good work.” (OEM: Core Values / Alignment / Personal Responsibility)
  • “The person I report to seems to care about me as a person.” (OEM: Core Values / Alignment / Personal Responsibility)
  • “In the past six months, someone has talked to me about my progress.” (OEM: Core Values / Alignment / Personal Responsibility)
  • “There is someone at work who encourages my development.” (OEM: Core Values / Alignment / Personal Responsibility)

There are many standards for what being a combination of human and divine amounts to, but none that compare to how God’s Bible explains it: Genesis 1:27, 2:7; Psalm 139; John 3:16. Devoid of this True Truth—no matter what any given leader says about the value of the worker or his or her “Human Resources”, the commoditization of human beings will always ensue, take over. And this is the antithesis of great leadership which inevitably leads to: “a) choosing the wrong mission-objective (or no objective, that is, just drifting), b) applying ineffective or immoral means to achieving it, and c) disengaging others (or attracting only unthinking-followers).” (on-line)

Not treating the most valuable asset of any organization as the most valuable asset always, eventually results in leadership treating the led as sort of a necessary evil. Mere overhead. Cogs that require oiling NOT developing, nurturing, flourishing… and NO further expenditure of a leader’s heart in his or her time, talent, or treasure than is absolutely necessary to maintain a pulse.

Step #3: Consider Slowing Down Long Enough to Really Grasp the GAP In Between…

a) The duty and beauty of LEADERSHIP to create an environment where PEOPLE FLOURISH in order to successfully execute the Vision/Mission and,

b) The recognition and data of how PEOPLE FLOURISHTHE GAP TO MAKE IT HAPPEN… must be bridged, filled by any given leader’s EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE factor, rating, strength, maturity, wisdom, etc…

Oh, yes… YOUR HEART!

The GAP between defining great leadership and carrying out the beauty and duty of executing the Vision-Mission according to what makes people flourish is the EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE factor of LEADERSHIP. That’s the heart of it.

  1. Self-Awareness: Definition: The ability to recognize and understand your most core beliefs, value system, emotions, and drives–as well as their effect on others. Hallmarks: Realistic self-assessment, Self-confidence, Self-deprecating sense of humor
  2. Self-Regulation: Definition: The ability to control or redirect disruptive impulses and moods, The propensity to suspend judgment – to think before acting. Hallmarks: Trustworthiness and integrity, Comfort with ambiguity, Openness to change
  3. Motivation: Definition: A passion to work for reasons that go beyond money or status, A propensity to pursue goals with energy and persistence. Hallmarks: Strong drive to achieve, Optimism–even in the face of failure, Organizational commitment
  4. Empathy: Definition: The ability to understand the emotional makeup of other people, Skill in treating people according to their (heart) emotional reactions. Hallmarks: Expertise in building and retaining talent, Cross-cultural sensitivity, Service to clients and customers
  5. Social Skill: Definition: Proficiency in managing relationships and building networks, An ability to find common ground and build rapport. Hallmarks: Effectiveness in leading change, Persuasiveness, Expertise in building and leading teams

Please don’t forget where, how we started this journey in Part 1 by defining God’s creation of the human heart—glorious and lasting leaders get this way down deep: Leaders who are strangers to God and self cannot effectively, endearingly, enduringly lead others. (Mark 12:30-31)

Just look at the attribute of Self-Awareness alone: “The ability to recognize and understand your most core beliefs, value system, emotions, and drives–as well as their effect on others.” ‘Nuf said… If you are in the presence of a leader with a sense of self-awareness of this kind, consider yourself very blessed. Look around: You’ll note it’s quite rare.

Even leaders who [apparently] know GOD—in both sacred or secular organizations—and yet do not know SELF, cannot lead OTHERS. Why so? Honestly? Leaders who rank low in Emotional Intelligence (EI) cannot get out of their own way. He or she is the biggest barrier to organizational and/or individual greatness.

Mostly hidden within every decision—or indecision—lurks a mini- and/or major-maelstrom of ambivalence or warring emotions that the low-EI leader is controlled by. SO THAT the best solution, or “GO-TO” on/in the OEM/pyramid remains unseen, unused, uncommunicated, unfruitful, or “UNFLOURISHING!” to and for the led. The OEM is the default mechanism for all things… unless uncontrolled emotions cloud its presence, its principles, and its practice.

That’s it.

Step #4: Leaders Are Made, Not Just Born

The human heart is absolutely transformable. Every leader [and those who are led] needs to grow in some way, shape, or form. There are many good tools out there to get a leader “on track for transformation” and [usually massively] increased effectiveness.  As a leadership coach, organizational effectiveness and strategic planning consultant, my “go-to” approach to serving in this regard was simple and yet very complicated: Internalize the OEM for your own life… FIRST!

“Becoming a leader is synonymous with becoming yourself. It is precisely that simple and it is also that difficult.” (Warren Bennis)

What is the Vision, Mission, Core Values, Strategic Roadmap, Alignment, Personal Responsibility, and Results FOR YOUR OWN LIFE? Of the dozens of leaders I personally have worked with, around 15-20% completed the journey of answering this question in all of its detail. The rest gave up in favor of “being too busy as a leader.” Hmmm? Yes indeed, “The Road Less Traveled” is operative in many realms of life, and leadership.

Believe me: Any leader who chooses to not fully, intentionally live life on the personal level should not be given the special and rare position to put things in place for others on a universal, organizational, corporate level. The GAP can’t be closed except from the inside-out: YASE! It’s a heart issue. As a leader, what would a grand, costly, transformational, and infectious change of heart look like to you?

This call-to-action perfectly complies to the likes of leadership experts Kouzes and Posner [The Leadership Challenge, 2+ million copies]:

  • Model the Way
  • Inspire a Shared Vision
  • Challenge the Process
  • Enable Others to Act
  • Encourage the Heart

Know this: As the timely cartoon depiction [WSJ last week] below reminds us, if a leader’s “GO-TO” is not something in the OEM, it will be something else… and it’s usually way below what it could be, or even [E.g., usually] quite destructive.

I know this is a BIG feast to digest, but please do so in ways that costs, hurts, heals, reveals, utilizes a community of people, and transforms your heart,
JohnDoz

Posted in Training Table

Leaders, What’s Your “Go-To” in the OEM? Part 2 of 3

Welcome marathoners in and for Christ. (1 Corinthians 9:24; Hebrews 12:1; 2 Timothy 4:7) Exhausted, depleted from running the Godly, good, and being-a-blessing-to-others race? Welcome. Sit. Relax. Let’s feast.

Feast of the Heart exists to help bring about Christ-centered “reformation, revival, and constructive revolution” (Francis Schaeffer, Death in the City) so that God will be glorified and people blessed.

Reformation… we seek to abide by and serve up the true truth, pure doctrine of the Bible

Revival… we seek to model biblical Christians living in word and deed

Constructive Revolution… we seek to spread the true gospel right where God has planted us with urgency, compassion, and radical self-abandonment

What is at the heart of leadership for you? 

Recall in Part 1 of this 3-part series I asked Training Table leaders what “rung” or part on the OEM [Organizational Effectiveness Model, insert image] would they say is their “go-to” as they do what leaders are called to do? E.g., “The #1 responsibility of a leader is to execute the vision-mission of the organization. 70% of CEO’s are relived of their duties due to the lack of execution of the vision-mission.” (“Why CEO’s Fail”, Ram Charan, Fortune Magazine, June 1991)

Again, as a reminder of last week, each of the seven parts of the OEM represents a leadership execution / communication opportunity—that will add a great deal to his or her success in executing the vision-mission of the organization… or detract is left undone.

70% of leaders leave it undone. Please commit to being part of the 30% who get ‘er done!

Even though a few, including myself, have offered the best answer in various forms, it seems to elude us. Why? Its “simple-sappiness” [Hallmark Card-ish] AND its “emotional threat-worthiness” [humanity’s instinctive fear of disclosure] tempts us to ignore the profundity and the potential journey towards good-to-great leadership—when we talk about the heart of it in this way:

“The heart of the matter of leadership is a matter of the heart.”

And even though this is absolutely true, do we have the vaguest idea of what it really, thoroughly, deeply means?

The heart of ANY human being is the centerpiece of what he or she expresses in words and in deeds, BUT, the heart of a leader is exponentially important and influential—because leaders exert an exponential amount of influence on just about everything, right? Leaders need to know what their own heart consists of FIRST, before they exert any influence on the words and actions of other hearts! But we’re getting ahead of ourselves…

The 20,000′ Level: Getting to the Heart of the Heart (The Weeping, Window, and the Way, by John Dozier)

“Scripture calls King David “a man after God’s own heart” (1 Samuel 13:13-14), though he faced the same temptations you and I face each day. When confronted with his most grievous sin of adultery, he dropped to his knees and confessed, “Against you [God], you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight…” (Psalm 51:4).  David’s weeping and penitential prayer serves as a powerful example for us. He recognized the internal cause of his external sins, the “sin beneath the sins”, that had dethroned God and had made adultery and murder first possible, then attractive, actionable, and finally consummated. It all began within David’s heart; and not with what might have been a perfectly innocent glance at Bathsheba bathing across the way.

The word “heart” and its various synonyms show up in the Bible over 1,500 times. Does that tell you something about the high priority God places on your heart? Does it compel you to consider how high a priority you place on the true nature and condition of your own heart? When I first came to realize and understand this emphasis in Scripture and began to discern the distinction between the heart and the spirit, it radically transformed my perspective. How important it is that we give our hearts the kind of focused attention God gives them, the kind of scrutiny Jonathan Edwards did—as recommended by Harold Simonson, an imminent Edwards biographer.

“No secrets of the heart and mind remained hidden when Jonathan Edwards called for self-scrutiny. . . . This meant the relentless need to distinguish between the true and false affections; between those affections having to do with a redeemed heart, and those darkened by sin. To clarify these distinctions was Edwards’ purpose in his life and in seeing the Great Awakening come to pass.” (Harold Simonson)

[That’s worth reading over again…]

In God’s good creation, the heart is the seat of the entire self. It includes our worldview, core commitments, values, and our idealized image of how the world should be. What is your heart’s default mode? What do you think about when you are experiencing no pressure to think about anything else? What sorts of ideas, hopes, and ambitions most regularly compete for ascendancy in your heart? What do you most hope to accomplish in life? For what would you practically die to achieve? Pause for a moment right now. Before you go on, think it through. In your heart of hearts, on what do you focus? In the margin of this book, finish this sentence ‘If only I . . .'”

Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord and Your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice.” (1 Samuel 15:24) The heart condition of far too many leaders is that they fear man more than they fear God. And this all too common heart condition get’s everything else leadership is about off to a very bad start.

For the Most Effective and Enduring Leadership, There is No Better Place to Start

I would challenge anyone to find a better, more serious, real, and robust place to begin than a favorite quote of mine On Leadership [happens to be the title of the book by John Gardner from whence it came], “Effective, enduring and memorable leaders set a vision and use their authority to create an environment where people can contribute to the vision’s success and flourish doing so. Leaders are environmentalists.”  (John Gardner)

What leader among us has a passion and the competencies needed for the care and feeding of a human being at work? If any leader leads other human beings in a largely dispassionate way, the is no breadth or depth of competencies which will make him or her an effective, enduring, successful leader: his or her heart isn’t in it.

Even though Gardner doesn’t offer an explicit, Bible- / God-based connection between “a vision, the people, and their flourishing”, this is where all truly good-to-great leadership must begin: A knowledge of God; a knowledge of His Image Bearers; a knowledge of self; a knowledge of organizational effectiveness; an “inside team” to help him or her see blind spots; the day-in, day-out beauty and duty of attending to the people’s flourishing; a knowledge of the marketplace / customer, and measures of success or failure used to amend the plan.

When an Image Bearer of God is empowered to help achieve a vision-mission, there are no limits. “Vision animates, inspires, transforms purpose into action.” (Warren Bennis)

Have you ever been in a natural and/or man-made greenhouse and seen plants cared for in ways that are most advantageous to their flourishing? Every detail about the environment is most carefully, intentionally, and correctively [if something goes awry] attended to. The beauty of the place can be staggering; the duties involved in caring for it should be a delight! I’m afraid for many leaders it is not…

When neglected, it’s most often due the drudgery of the leadership duties… because the beauty of the Image Bearers, the people-part of the organization, is unknown, degraded and despised within a leader him/her self, and eventually commoditized and treated like so much chattel or nonessential overhead.

This is a crime; and an all-too-common one at that: 52.3% of Americans are unhappy at work. And too much research neglects to take into account some awesome data that we’ll close Part 2 with today. Please take a very close look at the top-ranked verbatim when people were asked “What matters most at work?” AND my addition in the form of the various “rungs”, parts on the OEM that leadership MUST ensure is real, robust, and roundly / regularly communicated by him or herself:

Gallup Research Workplace Audit:  The Most Important People Issues for Growing the Business [assuring success at any organization]

  • “At work I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.” (RE: Vision / Mission / Core Values / Alignment)
  • “The vision/mission and values of the company makes me feel my job contributes.” (RE: Vision / Mission / Core Values / Strategic Roadmap / Alignment)
  • “I have a best friend at work.” (RE: Core Values / Personal Responsibility)
  • “At work, my opinions seem to count.” (RE: Core Values)
  • “My work associates are committed to doing quality work.” (RE: Vision / Core Values / Personal Responsibility / Alignment / Job Performance Review Process)
  • “In the last year I have been given opportunities to learn and grow.” (RE: Mission / Core Values / Alignment / Personal Responsibility)
  • “I have the resources I need to do my work right.” (RE: Core Values / Strategic Roadmap)
  • “In the past seven days, I have received recognition or praise for good work.” (RE: Core Values / Alignment / Personal Responsibility)
  • “The person I report to seems to care about me as a person.” (RE: Core Values / Alignment / Personal Responsibility)
  • “In the past six months, someone has talked to me about my progress.” (RE: Core Values / Alignment / Personal Responsibility)
  • “There is someone at work who encourages my development.” (RE: Core Values / Alignment / Personal Responsibility)

Please note not ONE “key employee / human satisfier” is tied to extrinsic motivators. E.g., compensation, benefits, material perks, etc. These sample key satisfiers are tied to intrinsic values which—DON’T MISS THIS—far too many leaders can’t empathize with within their own heart!

“It’s not what the vision is, it’s what the vision does.” (Peter Senge)

Now we’re getting very close to the challenge of leadership: One Being Fully Human—While Fully Leading Humans

Can’t wait to see all of you marathoners in and for Christ at The Training Table next week,
JohnDoz

Posted in Training Table

Leaders, What’s Your “Go-To” in the OEM? Part 1 of 3

Welcome marathoners in and for Christ. (1 Corinthians 9:24; Hebrews 12:1; 2 Timothy 4:7) Exhausted, depleted from running the Godly, good, and being-a-blessing-to-others race? Welcome. Sit. Relax. Let’s feast.

Feast of the Heart exists to help bring about Christ-centered “reformation, revival, and constructive revolution” (Francis Schaeffer, Death in the City) so that God will be glorified and people blessed.

Reformation… we seek to abide by and serve up the true truth, pure doctrine of the Bible

Revival… we seek to model biblical Christians living in word and deed

Constructive Revolution… we seek to spread the true gospel right where God has planted us with urgency, compassion, and radical self-abandonment

Whether It’s Prosperity, Pain, Promise, Path-Breaking, or Any Particularity…

All people, leaders in this case, have a “go-to” type of spiritual, emotional, psychological-mental, and physical reaction to life’s circumstances. Let’s use just one handy name for what I’m referring to made famous, more understandable by Stephen Covey: What’s your paradigm?

  1. your  framework containing the basic assumptions, ways of thinking, and methodology of approach to any given circumstance?
  2. your cognitive framework shared by yourself and/or members of any discipline or group?
  3. your set of known and unknown reactions to any person, or same-thinking group, and how you’re “spring-loaded” to carry it out?
  4. your “go-to” reactions, mostly visceral, ingrained from way-back-when, and well below the surface of your attention or even awareness?

[As a sidebar, what percent of leaders do you imagine have some robust, deeply-considered, and tested responses for the above-sort of suppositions?]

If anyone is remotely in touch with the reality of life’s complexities and radical up’s and down’s, he or she will first respond to an observation and set of questions of this kind by saying nothing more than, “It’s complicated.” That’s the wise thing to know and say. Because it truly is. And far too many people, having lived on the surface of a mostly comfy, untested life for a long time, will be ready to respond in far too simplistic [childish, naive, surface-only, devoid of context or wisdom] ways and/or reductionistic [reducing complicated problems to two or three solutions] way. Neither simplistic or reductionistic solutions EVER provide remotely robust, long-lasting, or deeply meaningful solutions, results.

No matter how much duck tape and bailing wire was applied to the Titanic… it was going down! Leadership arrogance and ignorance determined it’s destiny well before it left port.

Leaders Should Have a Helpful Leg-Up! BUT Few “Go There”… for Their “Go-To.”

This is an incredibly simple, yet highly complicated observation designed to help leaders [RE: all human beings really] live and lead fruitful lives and organizations: Unless any specific circumstance is more demanding than “Which pant leg should I don my slacks with first… the left or the right?” LEADERS now more than at any time in history need the “GO-TO HABIT” of referring to a “rung” on the Organizational Effectiveness Model [OEM] pictured herein. Which “rung” or part of the OEM depends on the circumstances or leadership call-to-action.

Mr., Ms. Leader, imagine an example of just about any circumstance you might find yourself in whereby you’re called upon to respond as a LEADER. I can double-dog promise, guarantee, fall on a thousand swords… you—on a really good day anyway—should be looking at the principles and practices contained within your organization’s:

  1. Vision
  2. Mission
  3. Core Values
  4. Strategic Roadmap
  5. Alignment
  6. Personal Responsibility
  7. Results

It’s all there. Or is it? It depends on whether any given leader… is leading.

This, This, This is Where You SHOULD “Go There” for Your “Go-To.”

Though, after having made this claim, please allow me to respectfully fill in the blank in far too many leaders minds—by means of some ballpark percentages of leaders who would offer a certain sort of response. Of course, my prediction is pure conjecture, but you might be surprised how accurate it is. In answer to the question akin to, “[Leader], are the seven parts of the OEM familiar to you? And do you regularly utilize them to LEAD? Or, put another way, if you were on trial for believing in such an OEM, would there be enough evidence to convict you?”

Ballpark answers:

  1. “Absolutely bang-on! We are a Vision-Mission-Values-etc. driven organization. These principles and practices are deeply embedded in the culture, business process, and technology; we practice them in toto or in part every day. Frankly, it’s why I get up in the morning and tackle life as a leader…” [5%]
  2. “No question this is true. I totally get that… Now, at the present time our context, vocabulary, systems, rewards, and results tied to this model are a bit antiquated. We worked hard on that stuff a while back… Honestly? I… we really need to revitalize that whole thing. It’s works when you work it but I, we just got too pressed to keep it a vital part of what we are and do…” [25%]
  3. “Sure. I get that… But our business [organization] is going so well… [or so horribly…] that I, we really don’t have the need or time for platitudes, pretty words, lofty concepts… We have work to do; people need the work; we have goals; that kind of thing puts us too much in a box; so we’re moving forward… that’s what we do here.” [65%] [put the extra 5% where my estimates might need rounding off…]

Your Organization Will Be As Successful As the Organizational Effectiveness Model You Use… Or Don’t Use!

How So? Really, How So??

Simply… Reductionistically… But Robustly Put: “Effective, enduring and memorable leaders set a vision and use their authority to create an environment where people can contribute to the vision’s success and flourish doing so.  Leaders are environmentalists.”  (John Gardner)

The only reason, and the best and most blessed reason, to fully utilize an OEM of the kind pictured is tied to the most valuable asset of ANY organization: its people, Image Bearers of God, are inspired to be all they can be by means of how a LEADER does or does not use a model of this kind. Period. What more leaders need to know and fully embrace is what CS Lewis described as a spiritual principle and practice, “The freedom of obedience.” (2 Chron. 30)

“Leaders as environmentalists” (Gardner) utilize an OEM for flourishing people and assuring success. A human being, as a unique sort of organism, requires a very certain sort of Organizational Effectiveness Model. Is there one in place where you lead, or are led?

Leadership, carried out with the proper motive, humility, boldness, and obedience, is inspiring, awesome… and rare. And if any given leader simply doesn’t get this, or care to do so, he or she should step aside and allow a real-life leader to fill the void.

“The #1 responsibility of a leader is to execute the vision-mission of the organization. 70% of CEO’s are relived of their duties due to the lack of execution of the vision-mission.” (“Why CEO’s Fail”, Ram Charan, Fortune Magazine, June 1991)

“Defining the basic vision and purpose of any organization is very difficult, painful and risky.  But it alone enables an organization to set objectives, to develop strategies, to concentrate its resources, and to go to work everyday.  It alone enables an organization to be managed for performance.”  (Peter Drucker, The Essential Drucker, Harper Business Publishing)

ANY organization—beginning with the one as an individual.

Bless you “5%-ters!” and “25%-ters”—who step up and stop putting it off!

Come to feast at The Training Table next week and we’ll get into Part 2 and some much-needed details about how leaders can pull the above off in very principled yet practical ways.

JohnDoz

 

Posted in Training Table

The Heart of Straining and Strengthening: In Order to Strengthen Others Under Stain

Welcome marathoners in and for Christ. (1 Corinthians 9:24; Hebrews 12:1; 2 Timothy 4:7) Exhausted, depleted from running the Godly, good, and being-a-blessing-to-others race? Welcome. Sit. Relax. Let’s feast.

Feast of the Heart exists to help bring about Christ-centered “reformation, revival, and constructive revolution” (Francis Schaeffer, Death in the City) so that God will be glorified and people blessed.

Reformation… we seek to abide by and serve up the true truth, pure doctrine of the Bible

Revival… we seek to model biblical Christians living in word and deed

Constructive Revolution… we seek to spread the true gospel right where God has planted us with urgency, compassion, and radical self-abandonment

“No Pain, No Gain!”, Right? Turns Out I Was Just Sucking Wind…

It was the summer of 1973. I was racing road and track bicycles at a national level while living in Denver and working at The Spoke bike shop. I was also trying to make the cut on the University of Denver ice hockey team—which I knew wasn’t going to happen, AND it happened to be going into one of its two-time undefeated, National Championship seasons. Coach Harry Ottenbright had picked the mostly Canadian players already, but I could skate as well, was fitter than most, and had the funds needed to participate in the summer camp with the Chicago Blackhawks. It was awesome…

Net, net: Between cycling and skating I trained 3-6 hours each day. I was, as we were prone to say at the time, “fit.”

One day I got a call from a sports lab in Boulder, Colorado that was connected to the University of Colorado. A nationally renowned sports physiologist by the name of Dr. Ken Sparks ran the lab. They asked me if I would be a “Fitoid Guinea Pig” interested in doing some stress tests to measure fitness and variables connected to genetic and other predispositions for achieving extraordinary fitness levels. “Sure!” I said.

Well, it was about three months later, after having completed a full two days of rigorous tests, that I got a call from the lab. One of the most interesting discoveries they made was the fact that I had an abnormally high “VO2 Max Capacity”. In fact, a VO2 Max range in the top 3% of world class athletes of approximately 85! I was pleasantly surprised.

VO2 Max is the maximum volume of oxygen consumed by the body each minute during exercise, while breathing air at sea level. Because oxygen consumption is linearly related to energy expenditure, when one measures oxygen consumption, they are indirectly measuring an individual’s maximal capacity to do work aerobically. I was involved in an obsessive and excessive amount of aerobic work.

But here’s an odd and interesting spin: During the post-testing interview Dr. Sparks asked me, “John, great results; we’ll get to the details; as a sort of side-bar, have you ever battled with asthma or upper respiratory disease at any time?” “Why, yes”, I said. “I had pretty bad asthma for most of the first 12 to 15 years of my early childhood and adolescence. In fact, I suffer from exercised-induced asthma on occasion to this day. Why?”

“Well, your lungs are disproportionately large compared to the rest of your anatomy. It’s probable that all the stress and strain you had in trying to breathe for all those years has had a dramatically positive impact on your ability to move lots of air volume, train, and compete at a very high level in aerobic sports today.” Dr. Sparks responded.

“Wow…” I said to myself. “Who would-a thunk that what was one of the greatest struggles and strains of my life was would turn out to be such a huge strength for me down the road? Cool!” And that was about it… I got back to life living the dream in Colorado.

All Strains and Struggles Should Serve to Strengthen
At the time I didn’t have the vaguest idea how God would aim to use one of my greatest vicissitudes in life to eventually be used for some of my greatest victories. In my mind, nothing in my life at that time could connect the dots between me and God. It would be twelve years before my conversion, being born again, and serving others as Christ did (Mark 10:45).

My early-life striving, straining, and struggles were all motivated by the trifecta of wounds that controlled by life at that time: shame, criticism, anonymity in my own home. I was spring-loaded to make idols out of anything that might shine a positive light on my life—until that Light was the Light of God in Christ.

On the road through life in my 20’s and 30’s, the gift of my athleticism, dogged determination and stamina became an obsession; another sort of struggle and strain, and an identity for me so that it too would be used by God to break me and bring me to the next place on my journey closer to God – and the truth of my core motivations. God lovingly used my idol to break me down… and then, and only then, bring my up!

Eventually, my “Ultra-Man modus operandi” crumbled as God allowed me to see it all for what it really was: A good thing, I had made the only thing. My fitness had morphed into my identity. Fill in the blank for yourself, “My ________ has morphed into my identity.” Idolatry is common to Every Fallen Image Bearer. Period.

Today I have been blessed with many relationships in the ultra-athlete, ultra-work, ultra-busyness, ultra-possessions, ultra-other-stuff world. Why? Because that’s one sure place God has called me to serve due to the fact that I have a deep empathy and passion for serving and comforting those who are on the same sort of journey I have been on: This is huge, Beloved. If the Trinity has brought you through very certain things, He expects you to help OTHERS do the same. If not, the very best you and I can say about our faith in Christ is that it’s no better, higher, more effective than a self-help plan… It’s NOT God’s Plan of Redemption!

Is there a possibility you have a similar strain-turned-to-strength that could be used to serve and comfort others? Take it from me, you absolutely do. Think about it and get after it, please.

Redeemed to Redeem…
The Bible tells us that anyone who had been delivered from any struggle or strain in their life has been given a principle, a purpose, and a process: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3)

Allow me to add some words of warning, hope and encouragement to close.

The consequences of ignoring this God-given offer, command, potential to transform our trials into a triumph—for ourselves, and then for others—is an ever-increasingly hardening of the heart that eventually results in the drone of skepticism rendered incapable of being skeptical of its own skepticism. Tribulations become ends, rather than means. “Eventually, the drone is the only thing that can be heard by the self, and others.” (CS Lewis)  This is a horrible place for a person to be… Christ gave his life as a ransom for many, and so must his namesakes… you and me.

There is indefatigable hope in the promise of God that no strains or struggles are allowed by Him if not for the purposes of trusting Him more, and being a more abundant source of love and comfort to others.

I encourage you to remember—and look more closely at the specific strains and struggles in your life and begin (or re-begin) the most radical healing and redemptive power and process available: transform your mind and heart and use your straining for the strengthening of others.

I respectfully hope the content acts as a catalyst to continually challenge you to come to terms with your existing philosophical, personal and / or business presuppositions as means of remembering, revitalizing, rejoining, and renewing in your life!

JohnDoz

Posted in Training Table

Everyone is Called to be a Storyteller

Welcome marathoners in and for Christ. (1 Corinthians 9:24; Hebrews 12:1; 2 Timothy 4:7) Exhausted, depleted from running the Godly, good, and being-a-blessing-to-others race? Welcome. Sit. Relax. Let’s feast.

Feast of the Heart exists to help bring about Christ-centered “reformation, revival, and constructive revolution” (Francis Schaeffer, Death in the City) so that God will be glorified and people blessed.

Reformation… we seek to abide by and serve up the true truth, pure doctrine of the Bible

Revival… we seek to model biblical Christians living in word and deed

Constructive Revolution… we seek to spread the true gospel right where God has planted us with urgency, compassion, and radical self-abandonment

What Is Most Personal Is Most Universal… So Make Community by Knowing and Sharing Your Story!

Beloved marathoners for Christ, “An infinite God can give all of Himself to each of His children. He does not distribute Himself that each may have a part, but to each one He gives all of Himself as fully as if there were no others.” (A.W. Tozer)

And, as a result, each and every person who ever been born not only has a story as unique as a fingerprint, but each of us has the responsibility and freedom to know and tell that story in all of its intimate detail.

“So take seriously the story that God has given you to live. It’s time to read your own life, because your story is the one that could set us all ablaze. Every human being has a story, but fewer people than at any time is history know their story and can tell it to others.” (Dan B. Allender, To Be Told: Know Your Story, Shape Your Future)

Following are some powerful, prophetic, and inspirational quotes about the importance of our story and God’s purpose of making Himself manifest and glorified as we get to know our story and use it as testimony of God’s universal yet highly personal plan of redemption!

Jesus Christ

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)

Frederick Buechner

“My story is important not because it is mine, God knows, but because if I tell it anything like right, the chances are you will recognize that in many ways it is also yours… it is precisely through these stories in all their particularity, as I have long believed and often said, that God makes himself known to each of us more powerfully and personally. If this is true, it means that to lose track of our stories is to be profoundly impoverished not only humanly but also spiritually.” (Telling Secrets)

John Dozier

“The opening section of my book includes part of my personal story. Not only did this strategy and compassion within me create a relationship of transparency, vulnerability, and trust with the reader, it became one of the most attractive and transformative avenues for people to enter into the sensitive and highly personal conversation about suffering: Readers have commented again and again, “Your openness and freedom to talk about such personal things has freed me to do the same. It’s scary… something I’ve never done… it was never done in my own home… but I know it’s the healthiest and best thing to do.” (The Weeping, the Window, the Way)

Henri Nouwen

“We like to make a distinction between our private and public lives and say, “Whatever I do in my private life is nobody else’s business.” But anyone trying to live a spiritual life will soon discover that the most personal is the most universal, the most hidden is the most public, and the most solitary is the most communal. What we live in the most intimate places of our beings is not just for us but for all people. That is why our inner lives are lives for others. That is why our solitude is a gift to our community, and that is why our most secret thoughts affect our common life.

Jesus says, “No one lights a lamp to put it under a tub; they put it on the lamp-stand where it shines for everyone in the house” (Matthew 5:14-15). The most inner light is a light for the world. Let’s not have “double lives”; let us allow what we live in private to be known in public.” (Henri Nouwen, Life of the Beloved)

Os Guinness

“The tragedy of modern man is not that he knows less and less about the meaning of his own life, but that it bothers him less and less…” (The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life)

The Apostle Paul

“Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14)

NOTE: The buried treasure within the nearly-untranslatable phrase, “…forgetting what lies behind…”, in more applicable way, what Paul is exhorting his audience to consider is [loosely yet inspiringly] this: “You cannot forget what you do not know about your past, your precious life and God-penned story; I am calling you to a form of ‘holy forgetfulness’; you must remember your past in all it’s glorious detail; its darkest times and its brightest; remember both your happiest days as well as your saddest, most difficult and painful; set aside all the sacred story-gathering time you need to; and what I’m encouraging you to do is put all the parts of your story in the context of your being a New Creation (2 Cor. 5:17), a born-again, adopted, faithful, justified, beloved and freed son of God in Christ Jesus; you are a new person, but carry along a story that does and will influence your words and deeds in the present time; every detail of your past, story has within it a redemptive thread which can be used to inspire and motivate you… but you must know it, embrace it, and remove its sting in order to secure its succor and sustenance; carefully, willfully, intentionally, and communally place all your stories—both the damnable and the delightful—at the foot of the cross; then, and only then, can the call of “straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” be more liberated from “the sea anchor of your past” that’s dragging you down, preventing you from unfurling your sails to be filled with God’s Spirit… and become more and more like your namesake Jesus Christ your King, Champion, Brother, and Priest (Hebrews 2:5–18).” 

John Eldredge

“The way we relate to each other speaks volumes about our character, our motives, and our basic life ambitions. In other words, it reveals the kind of person we are. And here’s why: God is love. Therefore, love is the highest mark in the ethics of the Scriptures. God is Trinity. God is relational at the very core. And we are too, because we bear God’s image bearers.

You and I have a way we relate to others. It is formed out of our childhood, mostly, and it weaves together what we do to avoid rejection, and what we do to get a little praise. Dan never speaks up because he’s afraid he’ll say something stupid; Susan can’t shut up because she’s so desperate to be liked. Matt talks about his job because he’s trying to impress you and Jan refuses to talk about what she does for fear of embarrassment. Amy dresses really nice because she wants to be noticed and Susan “dresses down” because she fears the attention of men. And on and on and on it goes.

None of it is motivated by love. It is motivated by all sorts of other things, like fear, compulsion, narcissism, pride, honoring man over God, and mostly self-protection. But not love. And so it’s godless. That is why the way we relate to others is high on God’s list for the transformation of our character. It opens the door to a whole world of joy and integrity in discovering we can live a very powerful life wherever we are. We have a style of relating, and it’s motivated by all sorts of things that aren’t so pretty, but God wants to free us of all that and help us learn to relate to Himself, and others, like He does. Wow. How hopeful!” (Ransomed Heart Ministries, emphasis added)

C.S. Lewis

“Men do not long continue to think what they have forgotten how to say.” (On Stories: And Other Essays on Literature)

King David

“My mouth will tell of your righteous acts, of your deeds of salvation all the day, for their number is past my knowledge. With the mighty deeds of the Lord God I will come; I will remind them of your righteousness, yours alone. O God, from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds. So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come.” (Psalm 75:15-18)

Solomon

“Better is a poor person who walks in his integrity than one who is crooked in speech and is a fool.” Proverbs 19:1)

Dan Allender

“It is our suffering and struggle with sin and injustice that reveals what Jesus endured for our salvation. It is the rescue of God—the surprising, life-giving wonder and awe of his goodness—that proclaims the glory of the resurrection. And it is our [story and] use of the gifts that he has given us to reveal his glory that shouts the blessing of his ascension. If we refuse to suffer—and grieve the depths or our suffering—then we lose power to reveal his death and resurrection. If we don’t name and bless the remarkable gifts he has given us, we cannot celebrate the stories he has written in us to reveal his story.” (Understanding Your Story – An Interview with Dan Allender, parenthesis added)

Family Life

“There are so many parts to your family story. Your children need to know where you and your parents and grandparents grew up, what your childhood was like, interesting events you witnessed or participated in. They also need to know the spiritual stories—the ones about God’s teachings, provisions, blessings, answers to prayers, and His saving grace. As believers, you and your family have a story, and it’s invaluable.” (Kimberly Crosen Luckabaugh, Capturing Your Family Stories)

Maya Angelou

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” (I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings)

Some Story Questions… Know and Share Your Story for God’s Glory and the Blessing of Others

The Growing Up Stage… Getting Started:

  • When and where were you born?
  • Where did you grow up?
  • What was it like?
  • Who were your parents?
  • What were your parents like?
  • How was your relationship with your parents?
  • Did you get into trouble? What was the worst thing you did?
  • Do you have any siblings? What were they like growing up?
  • What did you look like?
  • How would you describe yourself as a child? Were you happy?
  • What is your best memory of childhood? Worst?
  • Did you have a nickname? How’d you get it?
  • Who were your best friends? What were they like?
  • How would you describe a perfect day when you were young?
  • What did you think your life would be like when you were older?
  • Do you have any favorite stories from your childhood?

(Great Questions, © 2003-2017 StoryCorps, Inc.)

The Gaining Maturity Stage… Getting Holy, Straining Forward Towards the Prize:

  • For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? (Matthew 16:26)
  • Am I my brother’s keeper? (Genesis 4:9)
  • If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)
  • What is truth? (John 18:38)
  • How can anyone be born after having grown old? (John 3:4)
  • What do people gain from all the toil at which they toil under the sun? (Ecclesiastes 1:3)
  • Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? (Psalm 139:7)
  • Who is my neighbor? (Luke 10:29)
  • What shall I do to inherit eternal life? (Luke 10:25)

Know Your Story. Co-Author Your Destiny. The Light and Salt of God is Uniquely Seen in YOU… don’t be a stranger!
JohnDoz

Posted in Training Table

“In this is love…”

Welcome marathoners in and for Christ. (1 Corinthians 9:24; Hebrews 12:1; 2 Timothy 4:7) Exhausted, depleted from running the Godly, good, and being-a-blessing-to-others race? Welcome. Sit. Relax. Let’s feast.

Feast of the Heart exists to help bring about Christ-centered “reformation, revival, and constructive revolution” (Francis Schaeffer, Death in the City) so that God will be glorified and people blessed.

Reformation… we seek to abide by and serve up the true truth, pure doctrine of the Bible

Revival… we seek to model biblical Christians living in word and deed

Constructive Revolution… we seek to spread the true gospel right where God has planted us with urgency, compassion, and radical self-abandonment

“…not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:10)

Beloved running-the-good-race marathoners for Christ, how way-down deep do you know, believe, and live out Jesus Christ’s sacrificial life, death, resurrection, sending [the Holy Spirit], and ascension—ALL for the sake of eradicating your sin and setting you free to obey and serve? Do you know that, by faith in Christ, any and every sin has been atoned on your behalf you by Christ Jesus? Let’s review to remember and then to run more faithfully the good and Godly race set before us!

“When we talk about the vicarious aspect of the atonement, two technical words come up again and again: expiation and propitiation. These words spark all kinds of arguments about which one should be used to translate a particular Greek word, and some versions of the Bible will use one of these words and some will use the other one. I’m often asked to explain the difference between propitiation and expiation. The difficulty is that even though these words are in the Bible, we don’t use them as part of our day-to-day vocabulary, so we aren’t sure exactly what they are communicating in Scripture… and personally about each one of us who are in Christ. We lack reference points in relation to these words.

Expiation and Propitiation

Let’s think about what these words mean, then, beginning with the word expiation. The prefix ex means “out of” or “from,” so expiation has to do with removing something or taking something away. In biblical terms, it has to do with taking away guilt through the payment of a penalty or the offering of an atonement. By contrast, propitiation has to do with the object of the expiation. The prefix pro means “for,” so propitiation brings about a change in God’s attitude, so that He moves from being at enmity with us to being for us. Through the process of propitiation, we are restored into fellowship and favor with Him.” (RC Sproul)

So let’s get clear what is assuredly TRUE OF YOU who are in Christ: In reality, you are TOTALLY accepted, secure, and significant. The big-dog question of any day is this: What difference does this make in our life… in your life?

By Way of Christ’s Expiation and Propitiation:

I AM COMPLETELY ACCEPTED

John 1:12 – I am God’s child.

John 15:15 – As a disciple, I am a friend of Jesus Christ.

Romans 5:1 – I have been justified.

1 Corinthians 6:17 – I am united with the Lord, and I am one with Him in spirit.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 – I have been bought with a price and I belong to God.

1 Corinthians 12:27 – I am a member of Christ’s body.

Ephesians 1:3-8 – I have been chosen by God and adopted as His child.

Colossians 1:13-14 – I have been redeemed and forgiven of all my sins.

Colossians 2:9-10 – I am complete in Christ.

Hebrews 4:14-16 – I have direct access to the throne of grace through Jesus Christ.

I AM TOTALLY SECURE

Romans 8:1-2 – I am free from condemnation.

Romans 8:28 – I am assured that God works for my good in all circumstances.

Romans 8:31-39 – I am free from any condemnation brought against me and I cannot be separated from the love of God.

2 Corinthians 1:21-22 – I have been established, anointed and sealed by God.

Colossians 3:1-4 – I am hidden with Christ in God.

Philippians 1:6 – I am confident that God will complete the good work He started in me.

Philippians 3:20 – I am a citizen of heaven.

2 Timothy 1:7 – I have not been given a spirit of fear but of power, love and a sound mind.

1 John 5:18 – I am born of God and the evil one cannot touch me.

I AM ASTOUNDINGLY SIGNIFICANT

John 15:5 – I am a branch of Jesus Christ, the true vine, and a channel of His life.

John 15:16 – I have been chosen and appointed to bear fruit.

1 Corinthians 3:16 – I am God’s temple.

2 Corinthians 5:17-21 – I am a minister of reconciliation for God.

Ephesians 2:6 – I am seated with Jesus Christ in the heavenly realm.

Ephesians 2:10 – I am God’s workmanship.

Ephesians 3:12 – I may approach God with freedom and confidence.

Philippians 4:13  – I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.

“The key, aim, and fulfillment of the Christian life is to make what is objectively true of us a subjective reality.” (Tim Keller, Redeemer Presbyterian Church, NYC)

Let it be so. Amen. And Amen.

Some Application, Internalization Suggestions:

  1. Print out this T.T. missive and place it into your Bible. [Specifically the “I AM” Headlines and Bible passages under accepted, secure, and significant.] They serve as “foundational identity marks” and we should regularly reference them, know them, remind others of them who are in Christ. And those who are not what they’re missing in their life!
  2. Commit to using your daily, morning quiet time of 1-2 hours, for however long it takes, to read through the passages a day at a time, their context, and any Study Notes, related passages, that your Reformation Study Bible offers. Know them well, deep down in your heart, mind, soul, and strength.
  3. Commit to pray daily by means of the acrostic A.C.T.S. over each of the specific Scriptures, assurances above: Read ONLY the passage; begin by praying to The Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, under the “A” of Adoration; then move to the “C” of Confession; then the “T” of Thanksgiving, and finally the “S” of Supplication—or offering your prayerful requests of The Trinity’s intervention.
  4. Listen and journal about each of the steps of A.C.T.S.—and each of the Bible passages, in each category. This is about a) quality, b) going deep, and c) a Biblical change of heart. After you pray each word of any part of a passage, ask the Spirit to speak to you; be quiet; listen; journal; change; and seek to change others where God’s given you concerns and/or influence.
  5. Seek to memorize the passages and their assurances for you.
  6. I would suggest only ONE each day: Again, the point is NOT to go for quantity but quality—whenever you study the Bible, but even more so in this particular journey of KNOWING your new self; GROWING your faith and love of God, self; and SOWING the faith into your neighbors heart wherever God leads you.
  7. Finally, if you have invested in a small community of Saints to grow in your role as a disciple [and if not, why not?], please make several copies, bring the passages and the above course of action to them: Share a copy of it; request prayers about it; advocate for it; give it to others; offer to lead a community group study and internalization of it; request that people ask you about it… regularly… ask that you be held accountable for it; make it a part of your life so that it transforms you over time. And maybe others as well!

God swamp you in His Love and Truth,
JohnDoz

Posted in Training Table

The Treasure of the Trinity – “The Divine Dance”

Holy Trinity

Welcome marathoners in and for Christ. (1 Corinthians 9:24; Hebrews 12:1; 2 Timothy 4:7) Exhausted, depleted from running the Godly, good, and being-a-blessing-to-others race? Welcome. Sit. Relax. Let’s feast.

Feast of the Heart exists to help bring about Christ-centered “reformation, revival, and constructive revolution” (Francis Schaeffer, Death in the City) so that God will be glorified and people blessed.

Reformation… we seek to abide by and serve up the true truth, pure doctrine of the Bible

Revival… we seek to model biblical Christians living in word and deed

Constructive Revolution… we seek to spread the true gospel right where God has planted us with urgency, compassion, and radical self-abandonment

Here’s a Very Basic Kind of Question for You:

“Do You LOVE to Dance?”

“Do You Dance Like There’s No One Looking?”

“Do You Dance When You Have To? Or Do You Intentionally Look for the Chance to Dance Out Loud?”

“Or… Do You Dread Like a Root Canal When Your Forced Onto the Floor to Shake, Swing, or Box Step?”

Even though you might not sense questions of this kind about one’s dance habits are tied to one’s faith in God and living out a life that reflects it in all realms of life, when it comes to seeing The Trinity as The Divine Danceand faithfully, joyfully living as if it’s true truth–is connected: the music and movement of joy spills over and just can’t be contained!

First of all: know that this Training Table bookend on The Trinity is based upon Pastor Tim Keller’s sermon on The Trinity [as The Divine Dance] which can be accessed via the above link.

Secondly: please take note of two planks of Pastor Keller’s offering: a) What is meant by “The Trinity as The Divine Dance” [CS Lewis and Cornelius Plantinga] and b) how we are called to live it out [borrowed from Jonathan Edwards].

a) “The trinity means that God is, in essence, relational. The gospel writer John describes the Son as living from all eternity in the “bosom of the Father” (John 1:18), an ancient metaphor for love and intimacy. Later in John’s gospel, Jesus, the Son, describes the Spirit as living to “glorify” him (John 16:4). In turn, the Son glorifies the Father (17:4) and the Father, the Son (17:5). This has been going on for all eternity (17:5b).

What does the term “glorify” mean? To glorify something or someone is to praise, enjoy, and delight in them. When something is useful you are attracted to it for what it can bring you or do for you. But if it is beautiful, then you enjoy it simply for what it is. Just being in its presence is its own reward. To glorify someone is also to serve or defer to him or her. Instead of sacrificing their interests to make yourself happy, you sacrifice your interests to make them happy. Why? Your ultimate joy is to see them in joy.

…When we delight and serve someone else, we enter into a dynamic orbit around him or her, we center on the interests and desires on the other. That creates a dance, particularly if there are three persons, each of whom moves around the other two. So it is, the Bible tells us. Each of the divine persons centers upon the others. None demands that the others revolve around him. Each voluntarily circles the other two, pouring love, delight, and adoration into them. Each person of the Trinity loves, adores, defers to, and rejoices in the others. That creates a dynamic, pulsating dance of joy and love. The early leaders of the Greek church had a word for this—perichoresis. Notice our word “choreography” within it. It means literally to “dance or flow around.”(1)

The Father…Son…and Holy Spirit glorify each other…At the center of the universe, self-giving love is the dynamic currency of the Trinitarian life of God. The persons within God exalt, commune with, and defer to one another….When early Greek Christians spoke of perichoresis in God they meant that each divine person harbors the others at the center of his being. In constant movement of overture and acceptance each person envelops and encircles the others.(2)

In Christianity God is not an impersonal thing nor a static thing—not even just one person—but a dynamic pulsating activity, a life, a kind of drama, almost, if you will not think me irreverent, a kind of dance… [The] pattern of this three-personal life is…the great fountain of energy and beauty spurting up at the very center of reality. And now, what does it all matter? It matters more than anything else in the world. The whole dance, or drama, or pattern of this three-Personal life is to be played out in each one of us: or (putting it the other way round) each one of us has got to enter that pattern, take his place in that dance. There is no other way to the happiness for which we were made.(3)

…Ultimate reality is a community of persons who know and love one another…When Jesus said you must lose yourself in service to find yourself (Mark 8:35), he was recounting what the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have been doing throughout eternity…Unless you are willing to experience the loss of options and the individual limitation that comes from being in committed relationships, you will remain out of touch with your own nature and the nature of things.

[It is] impossible to stay fully human if you refuse the cost of forgiveness, the substitutional exchange of love, and the confinements of community. I quoted C.S. Lewis saying that the only place besides heaven that is free from the pain and suffering of relationships is hell…

God is infinitely happy, because there is an “other-orientation” at the heart of his being, because he does not seek his own glory but the glory of others. (4)

…He wants our joy! He has infinite happiness not through self-centeredness, but through self-giving, other-centered love.  And the only way we, who have been created in his image, can have this same joy, is if we center our entire lives around him instead of ourselves…God’s joy and happiness and delight in divine perfections is expressed externally by communicating that happiness and delight to created beings…The universe is an explosion of God’s glory. Perfect goodness, beauty, and love radiate from God and draw creatures to ever increasingly share in the Godhead’s joy and delight…The ultimate end of creation, then, is union in love between God and loving creatures. (5)

…We were made to center our lives upon him, to make the purpose and passion of our lives knowing, serving, delighting, and resembling him. This growth in happiness will go on eternally, increasing unimaginably (1 Corinthians 2:7-10).

This leads to a uniquely positive view of the material world…The universe is understood as a dance of being united by energies binding yet distinct, like planets orbiting stars, like tides and seasons, “like atoms in a molecule, like tones in a chord, like the living organisms on this earth, like the mother with the baby stirring in your body.” (6) The love of the inner life of the Trinity is written all through it. Creation is a dance!” (Pastor Tim Keller, Sermon, “Father, Son and Holy Spirit”, Jan 15, 2006)

Footnotes:
1. Hilary of Poiteries, in Concerning the Trinity, and Robert Letham on Tom Torrance: The Holy Trinity: In Scripture, History, Theology, and Worship.
2. Cornelius Plantinga, Engaging God’s World: A Christian Vision of Faith, Learning, and Living.
3. C.S. Lewis, “The Good Infection,” in Mere Christianity.
4. G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy.
5. George Marsden, Jonathan Edwards: A Life.
6. Debra Rienstra, So Much More.

b) The “how” of moving out of the position of a “wallflower” at the dance, or a static fixture insisting upon everyone orbiting around ME is contained by Keller via Jonathan Edwards’ nomenclature of the Christian life as one of Beauty and Duty. Listen and live well!

Choose This Day: “Wallflower? Center of the Universe? or Blissful, Inviting Dancer?”

“You’ve gotta dance like there’s nobody watching,
Love like you’ll never be hurt,
Sing like there’s nobody listening,
And live like it’s heaven on earth.” (William W. Purkey)

JohnDoz

Posted in Training Table
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