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One Habit of Highly Effective Believers

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. (Ephesians 4:11-13)

In his leadership masterpiece, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Steven Covey invoked Aesop’s familiar fable about the goose that laid the golden eggs. Covey wrote, “True effectiveness is a function of two things: what is produced (the golden eggs) and the producing asset or capacity to produce (the goose).”1 If we only focus on production and neglect the people and equipment used in the process, we eventually lose the ability to create anything. When we focus solely on production capability, however, we produce nothing. Effectiveness lies in devoting needed attention to both.

The apostle Paul never read Covey’s book—missed it by a couple millennia, actually—but he certainly understood and applied this concept. Citing those who preach and teach among us, Paul pointed to God’s purpose: “to prepare his people for works of service.” Solid Biblical instruction is not an end in itself, rather it prepares us (production capability) for a purpose: to serve others (production). Jesus put it this way, “Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”2

Yet just as one tool might be manufactured for the purpose of producing something else, so our service to others ultimately becomes the means that lead to yet a higher purpose and a greater outcome—the building up of the body of Christ and the exaltation of God. Again, Jesus: “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”3

God’s blessings were never intended to stop with us, but to flow out from us, blessing others and glorifying God. And it is to these ends that our learning and serving make us all the more effective. It’s a good habit to get into.

Father, bless us to bless others, grace us to grace others, and may our lives bring you praise. Amen.

1 Stephen R. Covey. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. (New York: Fireside), 54.
2 John 13:17
3 Matthew 5:16

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This Little Light

flameIt was my sophomore year in college when a friend and I took an overnighter to Mammoth Cave, Kentucky. Virtually penniless, we slept in his car that frigid-cold January night, Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” cycling through the dashboard’s 8-track player on a continuous loop.

If you’ve ever been to this, the world’s longest known cave system, you well know “the moment.” Descending a few hundred feet into the earth, hikers enter a large underground “room.” There the park ranger urges all to close their eyes while he extinguishes his lantern. Opening their eyes again, they find themselves in complete and utter darkness. It is a feeling like no other, as though consumed by something worse than nothingness; the uneasiness is assuaged only by the belief that the guide knows what he’s doing and that the palpable blackness will very soon end. The ranger then flicks his lighter, and, almost miraculously, its tiny wisp of flame illumines the entire cavernous space, much to the relief of all now reassured in its broad glow.

It is in the darkest recesses of our sightless soul that the Spirit of God reveals the Son of God. When Peter confessed to Jesus, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” his Lord blessed him and assured him, “this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven” (Matthew 16:16, 17). To the church in Corinth, the apostle Paul likewise wrote, “no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:3). Yes, it is the Spirit of God who lights the flame, sparking new life—the life of Christ—in us.

So we ask ourselves: What was it like when the Spirit illumined my life for the first time? How has the light of His presence transformed me since then? I think you will recall Him fondly and praise Him gratefully. And in that warmth, perhaps today we will carry the fire burning within us to others still longing to see the light of Christ.

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light. (Isaiah 9:2)

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Preparing a Place

cleaningWhen we’re expecting company, we all chip in and prepare the place, don’t we? Of course, our clean-up mirrors the occasion, from a general “straightening up” for the close friend stopping by for coffee to a full-fledged, top-to-bottom, spit-polish cleaning for holidays with family. (OK, ixnay on the spit part.)

As God revealed Himself to His people, they painstakingly prepared a tent of worship, a place where He would dwell in their midst. Then upon completion, “the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle”1 so not even Moses could enter it. Years later when Israel had become a nation, the people built a temple for God, and again, the priests could not perform their service, “for the glory of the Lord filled the temple of God.”2

Neither tent nor temple was close enough to us for God, however, nor were the sacrifices offered there sufficient for righting our wrongs. Instead, God would come and live as one of us, sharing our experience, as prophesied through King David and quoted in the letter to the Hebrews: “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased. Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll—I have come to do your will, O God.’”3 God himself prepared a place for His Son to live and love among us; He prepared a physical body for His Spirit to inhabit. And so we have the Christmas story, the angel declaring, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”4 God the Father had sent God the Spirit to prepare a place for God the Son.

The story does not end with Jesus’ incarnation, nor, for that matter, His ascension. For Jesus rose with a mission now familiar to us: “I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”5

Our salvation is entirely the initiative of God. He prepared a place for His Son to live for a time among us, and His Son prepares now a place for us to live forever with Himself. What is this place like? Indescribable. No eye has seen it; no mind has conceived it. But this we do know: it has been painstakingly prepared for us by the One who is faithful to His promises.

Lord Jesus, live in my innermost being and prepare me for the place you have prepared for me. Send your Spirit to live in me today, that I would live with you forever. Amen.

1 Exodus 40:35
2 2 Chronicles 5:14
3 Hebrews 10:5-7
4 Matthew 1:20, 21
5 John 14:2, 3