Anxiety

I find it quite interesting that Nehemiah lead a nation in repentance of their sins and a reception towards God’s grace by returning their focus back to his Law. The Torah reminded them that, “You in your great mercies did not forsake them in the wilderness. The pillar of cloud to lead them in the way did not depart from them by day, nor the pillar of fire by night to light for them the way by which they should go. You gave your good Spirit to instruct them and did not withhold your manna from their mouth and gave them water for their thirst. Forty years you sustained them in the wilderness, and they lacked nothing. Their clothes did not wear out and their feet did not swell” (Nehemiah 9:19-21, ESV).

The Exodus narrative recalled the covenant faithfulness of God – even when they least expected it or deserved it. Imagine a God loving enough and loyal enough to guide, provide, and protect a people for over four decades? Remember, they only wandered for that long in the wilderness because of their doubt and disobedience. Even so, he chose to feed them every day, clothe them every day, and lead them every day. He refused to abandon them even though they absolutely asked for it. He provided for them even when they requested to return to the alleged security of their slave-days.

Nehemiah used the phrase, “They lacked nothing.” These words would serve as a precursor to when Jesus challenged his own peers by saying, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” (Matthew 6:25-27). In the spirit of Moses, he told his disciples not to be anxious about what they were to eat, what they were to wear, or what they would call home.

I must be careful not to draw out my own twenty-first century concerns and Western world experiences from this passage. The original listeners had no concern a stock market crash, a health care policy, a mortgage crisis, or a college tuition bill. Many of them were greatly impoverished. Imagine parents who legitimately were worried about what they would have for their next meal, or how they would provide a pair of sandals for their youngest child, or who would hire them for tomorrow’s labor, or how they would pay tomorrow’s Roman taxes, or even where they would find shelter in the midst of tonight’s freezing temperatures?

Is it any coincidence that the southern hemisphere is home of not only many of the most impoverished places on the planet but also the epicenter of the rise in Christianity? Could it be that the center of authentic conversion and discipleship is the idea that Jesus Christ is truly to be the Center and Source of our provision? I fear that many wings of the church have fallen into the trap of consumption and gratification – chasing prosperity rather than piety. That being said, I also will not be entrapped with the idea that I must for some reason apologize for living in the wealthiest era in human history not to mention that I enjoy being a citizen of the wealthiest nation on the globe. That being said, I want to use that blessing to be a blessing – I want to be apart of a church that is generous with what we have – I want to be an answer to the issues of the day. I want to make a difference. Following Christ means that I will not only share his good news but that I will also show his good works.

On a personal level, I ought to be truly grateful for all that I have been given. The list is just too long to write here. My Heavenly Father has created me, saved me, and empowered me to live a life that is rightly connected to him and to others. My wife and children offer me joy that so far exceeds my wildest dreams. My extended family and friends offer me the opportunity to be shaped and sharpened. Our church is healthy and continually asks the question, “What can we do to be true to the mission that we have been entrusted with?” Sure, there are moments that I worry about the spiritual, social, economic, and political direction that our nation and world are quicly heading. I am reminded every day that we live in a broken and bruised place that is desperate for the reconciliation and restoration that will only come with the return of a King.

My worries pale in comparison with many in the world. I have a home. I have food. I have clothes. I have a job. Even so, I worry. Maybe I stress and strive too much over my dreams and not enough about God’s dreams? Maybe I worry too much about what is next and forget to seize the present? Maybe I exert too much energy in the attempt to make things happen rather than trust and obey that God will allow things to happen in his timing? I see many of these attitudes and actions in myself – and I don’t like them. I choose today to follow the counsel of the Apostle Paul who once wrote (to a very generous church, by the way), “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:4-7, ESV).

Anxiety

Derailed

I would recommend Dr. Tim Irwin’s “Derailed: Five Lessons Learned From Catastrophic Failures of Leadership.” I was fortunate enough to be provided a copy in a special pre-release directly from Thomas Nelson for review purposes. You can purchase a copy for under $17 at Amazon.com (http://www.amazon.com/Derailed-Catastrophic-Failures-Leadership-NelsonFree/dp/159555274X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1256055458&sr=8-1)or directly from the publisher at http://www.thomasnelson.com/consumer/product_detail.asp?sku=159555274X&title=Derailed. For further study on this topic, I would also encourage one to read Wayde Goodall’s “Why Great Men Fail” and Andy Stanley’s “The Principle of the Path.”

My favorite chapter was titled “The Real Deal” and focused on the need for every leader to be authentic. The author proposes, “It has been my observation that effective individuals frequently venture ‘self-authored’ ideas, which reflect a person’s true beliefs and convictions. I may disagree with their idea, but my respect and trust of the person rises when I feel I’m dealing with someone who is real, open, direct, trustworthy, and genuine” (Irwin, 114). The author asks us to consider the following thoughts:
• Be content with your true identity – clarify your strengths and weaknesses
• In no way become or appear egotistical
• Be honest through your language and lifestyle
• Demonstrate value for others
• Show understanding towards others by encouraging meaningful dialogue and actually be intentional in paying attention to what they have to say
• Don’t be afraid to reveal your fears and failures at worthwhile moments
• Communicate your authentic values and perspectives with those who are dependable

I am told by some that there used to be a day where pastors were highly revered for their position in the society and the messages that they held close. It seems now, in today’s culture, that being a pastor is often a deterrent and quite possibly a detriment to fostering any sort of relationship with the unchurched. They just do not trust us. This could be due to the combined result of the moral failures of the few and the overall secularization of our culture. Regardless, the days of ministers being placed on a pedestal are largely over – and this, in my opinion, is a healthier approach as long as it does not lead to general disrespect or disregard. In response, communicators must be intentional in not only answering the question, “Why does what you have to say matter to my life” but also, “Why should I listen to you to begin with?” We have to build trust. Credibility. Simply stated: we must earn the right to be heard – to be a valued voice in their world.

I am reminded of the time that King Solomon once warned, “Pride first, then the crash, but humility is precursor to honor” (Proverbs 18:12, The Message). Leaders, especially Christian communicators, must be authentic in their approach. Seminaries used to strongly discourage sermons to include individual illustrations. Today, personal examples and responsible transparency are crucial in the process of bridging the hope of the gospel with the need of the culture. This includes, but far surpasses, the humorous story in the introduction. We have to share with our churches how the life and teachings of Christ have troubled and transformed our very lives. I have often wondered what is the healthier (and holier) approach to preaching the Scriptures. Some have said “to practice what you preach” while still others have claimed to only “preach what you practice.” In other words, should I share what I hope to work out in my own life or only that which I have already worked out in my life? My conclusion is that I preach what I am working out. I must fully recognize and carefully reveal to the congregation where I am, where I hope to one day be, and how I plan to eventually get there.

Official Book Description: Vibrant stories of well-known execs who failed spectacularly as senior executives of major corporations. Bob Nardelli, Dick Fuld. What do they have in common? Both were execs in huge corporations and resigned under less-than honorable circumstances. What derailed them? During Nardelli’s tenure as CEO at Home Depot, he collected a tidy $240 million while his company’s stock stayed flat as that of its biggest competitor, Lowe’s, doubled. It’s hard to tell what sunk him in the end: was it stockholder disgust or his hard nosed and autocratic style? He was ousted in 2007.

Fuld was the last CEO of Lehman Brothers Holdings, Inc., which led America’s banks into bankruptcy in 2008. Employees were left with nothing in their hard-earned retirement accounts, and no severance packages at all, while stockholders fared no better. The story of the fallen CEO has become a cultural fixture: veering off course with the force of a train careening off its tracks, leaving fiery wreckage and devastating injury throughout the organization. These executives are often the smartest and most respected individuals in their industries, with glittering resumes and histories of successful leadership. Yet they astonish us by driving the train dramatically off course, blinded by unchecked power and arrogance.

Dr. Tim Irwin believes that these leaders suffer from failures of character that are common to each of us—even the most capable individuals. Deficits in authenticity, humility, self-management, and courage become more dangerous as we take on more leadership, and can cause us to ignore glaring signals that might otherwise save us from catastrophic demise. Derailed chronicles the collapse of six high-profile CEOs and the factors that drove their downfalls, finding that derailment actually happens long before the crash and can be avoided. Tim Irwin explains the character qualities that are essential for successful leadership and tells us how to cultivate them so that we can avoid derailing our own careers. Endorsements:

“A must read for those in and for all who aspire to leadership. Shelves are full of how-to books listing various formulas of what-to-do for success. Missing is a closer look at what-not-to-do to avoid derailment! Irwin fills this vacuum with his analysis of corporate leadership failures. He’s hit a home run identifying those primary pitfalls experienced by well known business leaders that resulted in their dismissal. We all can learn from this insightful study and copies should be required reading for all corporate officers.” —Ron F. Wagley; Chairman, CEO, & President, Transamerica Insurance (ret)

“CEOs are the new royalty. Sometimes these anointed kings are generous, insightful and use their power wisely. Other times they fall prey to the same hubris and tone deafness that felled the kings in the golden ages. There are useful lessons here for everyone, crowned or not.” —Seth Godin, Author, Tribes

Derailed