A Daily Dose of Eternal Truth

“Forever, O Lord, Your word is settled in heaven.” (Psalm 119:89 NSAB)

Bad news, delivered badly. Can we agree on this assessment of our daily newsfeed? A global pandemic, unchecked lawlessness, and ineffective leadership—taken together, they consume us with concern. Compounding the problem is the constant barrage of information—all of it slanted, much of it untrue, and now some of it censored. This is not healthy; this is not good. People need truth; what we do with it is up to us in our freedoms, but we need the firm foundation of truth. Is there a place where we can find our footing again?

Fortunately, there is; it is the immoveable bedrock that has always been there: God’s Word. The psalmist proclaims it to be “Forever, O Lord.” It is “settled in heaven,” and it always will be. It’s not going anywhere; it cannot be moved. The Bible will not keep us current on world events of the day, of course, but it strengthens us in God’s power to face them, it inspires us in His love to serve amid them, and it rests us in the sovereignty of Him who has authority over all things. His Word “sustains the weary,” said Isaiah, for “the Sovereign Lord … wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed.”

Might today be different if we prioritized and protected a few minutes to pray, to absorb a Bible passage, and to incline our ear “to listen like one being instructed”? Might God’s Spirit shine through us as hope to someone who has lost hope? Couldn’t we all use a little good-newsfeed these days?

“The Sovereign Lord has given me a well-instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed.” (Isaiah 50:4)

Father, your Word is truth, and your truth never changes. How refreshing the thought! Send your Spirit to breathe life through your Word, that we would draw near to you in confidence, resting in your sovereignty, shining in your joy, and serving with compassion. In Christ we pray. Amen.

Plans and Purposes That Prevail

“Many are the purposes in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” (Proverbs 19:21).

“I didn’t accomplish a single thing I set out to do today!” How many times has our day ended in the agitation of futility? Whether self-discipline brought us up short or outside factors stretched us too far, reality failed to honor our plans again, and we fret in frustration. Sleep comes hard these nights. What if we were to discover execution to be the least of our problems, that it was actually misalignment that rendered today’s to-do list a non-starter from its conception?

Plans follow purpose. This is one reason organizations articulate mission statements—their reason for being: they proclaim a shared sense of purpose to which to subordinate all strategies, objectives and goals toward its fulfillment. Any number of leadership books extol the value of such clarity, but most overlook this indispensable truism: “It is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” We may dutifully conceive our plans and precisely align them with our purposes, but if our rigid list of things to do allows no room for real life, we will needlessly resign ourselves at the end of the day to failure.

Early in my career an organization coach offered this piece of practicality: “When you plan your work day, allow four hours for unanticipated priorities.” Hers proved to be a wonderful, sanity-saving suggestion, for we live and work among others who have needs just as we do, and God’s plans prevail above all. Then doesn’t it make sense to recognize God as our ultimate purpose in life, and to pray for His will as we plan our day? How different would our sense of satisfaction be if were actually to look for Him working all around us and to heed His call to join Him? Might we find an apparent “imposition” to be an “invitation” in disguise? Might we find our purpose in His purpose, and our satisfaction in Him? I think we can plan on it, actually.

Father, every day unfolds under your command. Fill me with your Spirit of wisdom today, that I would submit my plans to your purposes, knowing your purposes are good and they will prevail again today. In Christ I pray. Amen.

Followership Excellence [Redux]

[Today’s post is an edited version of one shared a few years ago. It is an under-discussed topic, yet an important one, so I am reposting it for you today.]

“And [Moses] called the place Massah [Testing] and Meribah [Quarreling] because the Israelites quarreled and because they tested the Lord saying, ‘Is the Lord among us or not?’” (Exodus 17:7).

Have you ever noticed how obsessed our culture is about leadership? Browse around Barnes & Noble or peruse your church library, and what we might call “leadership-envy” is inescapable. Great leadership is vital—we know this all too well—yet what seems to me an excessive fixation on leadership is to some degree symptomatic of two unhealthy causes: we have concluded leaders have more value than followers; and we are afraid that, if we are not leaders, we’re somehow unsuccessful. Which is a shame, because I believe that more good is accomplished through great followers than through great leaders and that great followers are at least as worthy of our esteem, if not more so.

Great followers toil just as hard, sacrifice just as much, and apply an equally capable—albeit different—skill set as those who chart their course. Great followers are strong enough to temper their own control and respect that of others. They have the character to offer precious insights during the decision-making process and then submit themselves to the conclusions of those in charge. Their candor takes more courage, for they speak to those who hold power over them. And how brave is the one who does not violate his or her values and principles, even when pressured to do so by those in authority! All of this for a fraction of the recognition. This is the stuff of heroes. This is greatness. This commands respect. Surely, the last will be first.

But poor followership? It stymies. It divides. It tears down, and makes for ruin. And it showed up in the Israelites’ rebellion against their leader and in their doubt in their God. So defining was the moment that Moses actually named the place after these faithless followers. He called it Testing and Quarreling. Wouldn’t it have been great had Moses been able to name the place, Loyalty and Affirmation? Or Diligence and Unity? It would have been a lasting reminder of great followership. But it could not be, for although Moses is considered among the greatest leaders of all time, it was the poor followers who defined the place.

We are followers; this is what “disciple” means. And our response to true leadership defines the environment where we work and serve. So, fellow followers, what will they name the place where we give of ourselves today? Division, or Unity? Rebellion, or Obedience? Cowardice, or Courage? Pettiness, or Maturity? Subversion, or Support? Me, or We?

Lord, lead us in your strength, and inspire us to serve people well. Grace us with humility, so we may bring blessing to others and glory to you. In Jesus’ name and by the power of your Spirit, we pray. Amen.

[Read the story about Israel’s rebellion in Exodus 17:1-7.]