MMMBACON

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Nothing impure will ever enter it [heaven], …. but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.             Revelation 21:27

 

The title of this reflection comes from my 11 year old grandson, Luke, who put this on his soccer jersey.  It says something about him:  he loves bacon!  A couple of years ago, we took a 23-day trip in southeast Asia with my son and his family and stayed in hotels that all had an American style breakfast in addition to fruit and something from the local culture.  Luke had bacon for 23 days in a row.  I asked him if he ever ate anything else, and he replied, “Yes. Donuts,  if they have them.”  MMMBACON confirms his love for bacon.

Names often say something about each of us.  My wife is called “Sis” which would tell you that she has a brother – two of them, in fact. My mother’s maiden name was “Anderson” which would indicate that she might be of Scandinavian descent.  In fact, she was the daughter of two Swedish immigrants  who came to the U.S. in the early 20th century.  I have a friend in Cameroon whose name is Dibikamp Benvictor Ojongmanyinkongho.  That’s not a misprint – all 17 letters of it. I call him Benvictor “Alphabet” for short since I cannot pronounce or spell his real name.  His name is derived from his African family names combined with a European name. Cameroon was a French colony at one time, and French is one of its primary languages.

While we live with names that were given to us by our parents,  we often acquire nicknames given to us by others such as my wife’s nickname. On the other hand,   English is the primary language used in business in Japan, and it is commonplace for Japanese to adopt an American or English nickname which is easier for others to remember (or pronounce) than their own Japanese name. Yasuhiro Hagihara, who was my law partner for 10 years, picked “Hagi” for his nickname and everyone calls him that. Several years ago, I was in Tokyo having lunch with some clients, and one of them asked me if I liked the name “Kirk”.   I said it sounded fine but wondered why he was asking me. He told me he wanted to adopt a nickname for his new business cards and he was trying out several names, including “Kirk” and just wanted my opinion. He was interested in what that name would “say” about him.

Jesus has many names in the Bible, each one of which “says” something about Him.  Names like Good Shepherd, Eternal God, Light of the World, Savior, Alpha and Omega, King of Kings, Resurrection and the Life, Eternal Judge,  Son of God, and many others.   Each name tells something about Him and His character.  While we will never fully understand the character of God, we can know him in a personal way and thereby have our names written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.

My challenge for you is to look around you today for those who may not have their name in the Book of Life.    Our eternal destiny is tied to knowing God and having our name entered into the Lamb’s Book of Life.  This is a chance to bring your family and friends along with you for eternity.

Bill Mann

Charge It

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   There is a time for everything ,and a season for every activity under the heavens; 

                                                                                                                             Ecclesiastes 3:1

I have been in many countries in my lifetime (actually close to 90), and the one thing that is common to every country and every culture is the ubiquitous mobile phone.  It is everywhere. There are approximately seven billion mobile phones in the world, with some 15% of them being smart phones.  “Dumb” phones really are not all that dumb, and most have features like a small screen, a capacity to store information of at least 2 Gigabytes, texting capability, limited internet capability, and many are Bluetooth enabled.

The cellphone is the communication platform of the world.  Every cellphone owner in the world knows one thing:  if you don’t charge your phone, it stops working.  This isn’t rocket science.  Cellphone batteries have a certain capacity to work without charging.   So, every owner of a cellphone – all seven billion of them – know that they need to regularly charge their phone or it stops.  Many phones even have a little battery symbol to let you know how much battery life is remaining.  Most people are fanatical about making sure their phone works because it is their connection to the world, so they pay apt attention to making sure that it is fully charged each day.

The cellphone is similar to our spiritual life.   If it isn’t charged daily or on a consistent basis, our spiritual life begins to wane.  How do we charge our spiritual life?  Well, it may vary from person to person, but if people spend as much time charging their spiritual life as they do charging their cell phone, they would be a lot better off.  All too often, our cellphone wins our attention because people know they can’t do without it.  If you are serious about your spiritual life as you are about charging your cellphone, my guess is that you would pay more attention to charging it on a daily basis.  As Solomon writes in the above passage, there is a time for everything.

How you “charge it” varies from person to person, and there is no one path or routine that works for everyone.  My wife, for example, is very consistent in her daily bible study, and she journals every day, plus she does several devotionals that she has done for years.  I just got her a new devotional for Christmas this year from the lead Hillsong singer Darlene Zschech just to vary her routine for 2016.  My own routine involves reading a devotional from Tony Dungy called The One Year Uncommon Life Daily Challenge, plus a couple of email devotionals, and then reading various portions of the bible, usually with a Bible app on my computer or cellphone. The point is that doing it regularly – just as regularly as you would charge your cellphone to keep it working – is the key to charging your spiritual life.  It takes discipline, but I can safely say that it is worth it.

So, my challenge to you this year is to start charging your spiritual life in the same manner as you charge your mobile phone.  Like the cellphone, it can’t work on no charge, and your spiritual life also suffers or goes dead without regular “charging”.     The next time you plug your cellphone in, let it be a reminder that it may be time to think about what you have done to charge your spiritual life as well.

Bill Mann

 

 

For Deposit Only

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What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus.  Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.                                                                                 2 Timothy 1:14

https://mentorlink.files.wordpress.com/2016/04/american-1239040_640.jpg?w=450I recently read a message put on Facebook from an old school friend who had put a message of support to a friend of mine whose sister had recently died after a long illness.   It struck a chord in my head about the image or making a deposit in someone else.  Here is the Facebook post:

“They marked us, you know. Your mother, Georgia, Imogene, Mrs. France, Mrs. Ferguson, Mrs. Giesleman…. all of them…. too many precious ones to name. 
They marked us with their love, with what they deposited in us, and what we learned from them. Life lessons and skills and grace that keeps on giving our entire lives. Grace that grows within us and extends to those we encounter. Through us, their love gets re-deposited in people they will never know. 
While I am so very sorry for your loss, it was good to see all of you. My sister said to me, “You have more fun at funerals than anyone I know”. I had to think about that… how to take it. It isn’t “fun”…. it is joy. Joy in the process of recalling and appreciating what those persons have given me; what their gifts in the past have contributed to my life; and an opportunity to express that to those who have lost loved ones. We never know how far the influence of one life reaches until it is extinguished and people come forth with those ‘precious memories’.”

This is a remarkable tribute – I hope when I die that someone can say the same about me at my funeral.

When you go the bank, and you have a check to deposit to your account,  you can write “For Deposit Only” on the back.  Your deposit will increase the value of what is already in the account.    Mentoring is like that – you are making a deposit in someone else’s life of your wisdom, love, experiences in order to enhance what is already there.  But the image doesn’t stop with just the initial deposit.  One of the biblical imperatives is to “pass it on” to future generations.  That’s what the author is talking about when she says that the life lessons, skills and love that were deposited in us will get “re-deposited in people [you] will never know”.

Two takeaways from this:

  1. Who deposited values and character in you? It might have been a friend, a coach, a parent or relative, or, if you are fortunate, someone who mentored you along the way.  The invested in you for your benefit, not for their own, and the expectation is that you would do the same in the lives of others.  If there is someone who made a deposit in your life, don’t wait until their funeral to thank them for their investment in you.
  1. Who are you making deposits in at this moment? If you can’t think of anyone, maybe it’s time to start and be intentional in the lives of others. Surveys show that the next generation (millennials) are desperate for someone to mentor them, but the generation that could mentor them has largely ignored their pleas. This is true not just in America, but in other cultures as well.  Don’t be intimidated if you have never mentored someone.  What they are looking for is the benefit or your wisdom and experience – life experiences that they don’t have.  Life itself has been your teacher, and it would be a shame for you not to pass along what you have learned to others.  A quote that I like from Albert Einstein says it well: “ Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterwards.”

If you think of eternity as an endless line, our existence on earth is just a dot on the line.  Hard to think of yourself as just a “.” on a line that goes to infinity, but that’s a good visual of the length of our lives here on earth.  A friend of mine, Stacy Rinehart, asks the question as to whether you want to be a dot where we live for the present and the temporal, or whether we want to do something that lasts for eternity.  He calls it living for the line, not the dot.  He adds: “What is amazing is that we can do things in this life that have an eternal impact and bear fruit that lasts forever”.*  Making deposits in others is a way to live for the line – where your investments in lives of others will impact their values, character and even their careers or outcomes.  Those deposits will get passed on to others “you will never know”.   That’s living for the line, not the dot.

Bill Mann

  • Rinehart, Stacy (2015). Lead in Light of Eternity: The Jesus Model.

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Rinehart, Stacy (2015-06-02). Lead in Light of Eternity: The Jesus Model.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For Deposit Only

What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus.  Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.                                                                                 2 Timothy 1:14

 

I recently read a message put on Facebook from an old school friend who had put a message of support to a friend of mine whose sister had recently died after a long illness.   It struck a chord in my head about the image or making a deposit in someone else.  Here is the Facebook post:

“They marked us, you know. Your mother, Georgia, Imogene, Mrs. France, Mrs. Ferguson, Mrs. Giesleman…. all of them…. too many precious ones to name. 
They marked us with their love, with what they deposited in us, and what we learned from them. Life lessons and skills and grace that keeps on giving our entire lives. Grace that grows within us and extends to those we encounter. Through us, their love gets re-deposited in people they will never know. 
While I am so very sorry for your loss, it was good to see all of you. My sister said to me, “You have more fun at funerals than anyone I know”. I had to think about that… how to take it. It isn’t “fun”…. it is joy. Joy in the process of recalling and appreciating what those persons have given me; what their gifts in the past have contributed to my life; and an opportunity to express that to those who have lost loved ones. We never know how far the influence of one life reaches until it is extinguished and people come forth with those ‘precious memories’.”

This is a remarkable tribute – I hope when I die that someone can say the same about me at my funeral – that my life meant something to future generations.

When you go a bank and you have a check to deposit to your account,  you can write “For Deposit Only” on the back.  Your deposit will increase the value of what is already in the account.    Mentoring is like that – you are making a deposit in someone else’s life of your wisdom, love, experiences in order to enhance what is already there.  But the image doesn’t stop with just the initial deposit.  One of the biblical imperatives is to “pass it on” to future generations.  That’s what the author is talking about when she says that the life lessons, skills and love that were deposited in us will get “re-deposited in people [you] will never know”.

Two takeaways from this:

  1. Who deposited values and character in you? It might have been a friend, a coach, a parent or relative, or, if you are fortunate, someone who mentored you along the way.  They invested in you for your benefit, not for their own, and the expectation is that you would do the same in the lives of others.  If there is someone who made a deposit in your life, don’t wait until their funeral to thank them for their investment in you.
  1. Who are you making deposits in at this moment? If you can’t think of anyone, maybe it’s time to start and be intentional in the lives of others. Surveys show that the next generation (millennials) are desperate for someone to mentor them, but the generation that could mentor them has largely ignored their pleas. This is true not just in America, but in other cultures as well.  Don’t be intimidated if you have never mentored someone.  What they are looking for is the benefit or your wisdom and experience – life experiences that they don’t have.  Life itself has been your teacher, and it would be a shame for you not to pass along what you have learned to others.  A quote that I like from Albert Einstein says it well: “ Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterwards.”

If you think of eternity as an endless line, our existence on earth is just a dot on the line.  Hard to think of yourself as just a “.” on a line that goes to infinity, but that’s a good visual of the length of our lives here on earth.  A friend of mine, Stacy Rinehart, asks the question as to whether you want to be a dot where we live for the present and the temporal, or whether we want to do something that lasts for eternity.  He calls it living for the line, not the dot.  He adds: “What is amazing is that we can do things in this life that have an eternal impact and bear fruit that lasts forever”.*  Making deposits in others is a way to live for the line – where your investments in lives of others will impact their values, character and even their careers or outcomes.  Those deposits will get passed on to others “you will never know”.   That’s living for the line, not the dot.

Bill Mann

*Rinehart, Stacy (2015). Lead in Light of Eternity: The Jesus Model.

Jethro Principles – Part 2

“When his father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said, “What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?” 

                                                                                                      Exodus 18:14

In my prior post on Exodus 18, I recounted the story of Moses and Jethro and explored two principles of mentoring.  You may recall that Moses had returned with the Israelites from their exile in Egypt and undertook single-handedly to resolve all of the disputes that two million Israelites had built up while in Egypt.  He literally went from dawn to dusk taking the cases on one at a time while all of the others stood around waiting their turn.   Jethro comes for a visit, and watches this spectacle and is shocked at what he sees.  He gently pulls Moses aside and gives him some advice, which was to find Godly men to take the load of the cases, reserving the hardest disputes to himself.  For all we know, if Jethro hadn’t been in town, Moses would still be out in the desert judging disputes to this day.

The two principles I explored last week were:  1) Every Moses needs a Jethro,  and 2) Every Moses needs to listen to a trusted advisor.  I have used this biblical story in two countries – Kenya and Cameroun, with pastors who often don’t have a Jethro, or alternately, have never been a Jethro to another pastor.  They are isolated, often to the point that bad things happen.  As the resident of a Halfway house in Stamford, Connecticut said, “The mind alone is a bad neighborhood.”  Pastors don’t have moral failures in a group – they get isolated and have no other resources to help them with their struggles.  It is often a deadly combination, both to the pastor who fails and to the kingdom who watches it happen and is quick to condemn.

The next two Jethro Principles that come from this story follow the thought of the last one:

  1. Every Moses has a blind spot. In Exodus 18, Moses couldn’t see the obvious solution to his dilemma, that he needed to turn over the task to trained Godly men, which would free him up to be what God wanted to be:  the leader of the Israelites.  We all have blind spots – things we can’t see, or, perhaps more often, things we see but openly choose to ignore.  Either one is potentially deadly. Having a mentor to observe you and provide Godly counsel is a welcome thing, yet so few cultures have maintained a priority for people to be Jethro’s in each other’s lives.   I have been in a peer mentoring group of 3 men that has met weekly for close to 24 years.  I cannot express how valuable a resource it has been for all of us as we share our struggles, successes and sometimes our failures in life together.
  1. Delegation is hard. I have often thought that the act of delegation is somewhat unnatural, because it involves the transfer of the responsibility for a task that we have done regularly, often for some time.  But, in life, we aren’t gifted in every aspect of leadership.  Success as a leader is finding a way to get things done which are not your strengths by those who are gifted or talented at those tasks. Through delegation, you can be freed up to work on issues which are more consistent with your strengths. Put another way, we should look to build to strengths, not to weaknesses.  Pastors are particularly guilty of not delegating. They become a choke point in their church, often to the detriment of themselves and their church.  They unwittingly can be a modern day Moses who felt obligated to be a judge because the people trusted him.    MentorLink is committed to encouraging pastors to collaborate and partner with others to accomplish kingdom goals.  That means, by necessity developing the capacity to delegate.

So, what’s your blind spot?  Is it one that you chose to ignore?  Does someone know you well enough to gently point it out to you?  If not, you need to find a Jethro.  And, how is your ability to delegate?  Have you successfully transferred a task or assignment to others?  It takes a little work in the transition, but you will be better off as a leader for having mastered the art of successful delegation.

The Jethro Principles

 

         “Moses listened to his father-in-law and did everything he said”.

                                                                                                                      Exodus 18:24 (NIV)

 

In searching for biblical examples of mentoring, I have uncovered a lot of stories, but none is quite as challenging to pastors and leaders as the story of Moses and Jethro in Exodus 18.  It is also a challenge to anyone to see the benefit of having a mentor.  I will address two of the principles in this installment with the other two to come in the next installment.

The backdrop of this story is the miraculous flight of the Israelites – some say there were 2 million of them – out of Egypt.  In Exodus 18, we find Moses is camped with the Israelites in the Sinai desert, and he is trying to deal with disputes that had arisen while in captivity in Egypt that had not been addressed.  My guess is that there were a lot of disputes – in any large group, conflicts are bound to exist, and some of these may have been festering for a long time.  Moses, like any leader, realized that everyone wanted him to be the arbitrator of their disputes because they had seen the Lord was with him in their escape through the Red Sea.

Jethro, Moses’s father in law, sent Moses a message that he was coming to visit in Exodus 18:6.   I don’t know about you, but in some instances, having an in-law come to visit is not always a welcome thing or a happy event.  Neither was the case here.  Jethro is delighted to hear about “all the good things the Lord has done for Israel in rescuing them from the hand of the Egyptians.” (Exodus 18:9).  That’s a good start.

Jethro spends the next day from dawn to dusk watching Moses serve as a judge for his people, and he is taken aback at the scene he has watched.  He challenges Moses by asking him why are you doing this.  Moses’ response in Exodus 15:15-16 is typical of any leader who feels called upon to resolve others problems by himself.  Moses basically said I am doing the judging because “people come to me to seek God’s will.”

Jethro continues, and gives Moses advice to find good men, train them, and organize them into thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens, and let them handle most of the disputes, but Moses should retain the most difficult ones.  Exodus 18:24 tells us that Moses “listened to his father-in-law and did everything he said.”  Wow.

I have distilled this story into four principles as follows:

  1. Every Moses needs a Jethro. Even the leader of the Israelites needs a mentor of someone older and more experienced.  We all need that.   If you are a Moses, who is your Jethro?  Or, if you are a Jethro, who is your Moses?
  1. Every Moses needs to listen to a Jethro. Not only did Jethro give Moses advice, but Moses immediately took it and put it in place.  An interesting historical note is that the judicial structure outlined by Jethro is still the basic judicial structure in Israel today.   Moses not only listened to Jethro, but he implemented his advice.  Moses relationship with Jethro was not an immediate thing – we can use our imagination that they got to know one another when Moses was courting his daughter.  He took the advice from a trusted advisor, not just someone he didn’t know well.

Mentoring is a relationship with another – it takes time to develop and you have to build trust in one another.  Whether you are a Moses or a Jethro, the effort is worth it for either side.  As a Moses, you get the benefit of wisdom of someone who has more experience than you.  As a Jethro, you get the satisfaction of helping a Moses to become all that God wants him to be.

So, if you are a Moses leader doing his own thing, who is your Jethro?  We all need a sounding board to initiate best practices in our leadership.

 

Bill Mann

 

 

So That

Whenever I see the phrase “so that” in scripture, it usually follows a command or imperative leading to why the imperative is important.  The words often are in the context of being in the Word – consistently and regularly.  Having a regular quiet time, if you will. There is one practical reason for following this admonition to have a quiet time:  it keeps one grounded and aligned with God.

Fifty percent of Christian men and twenty percent of women are addicted to pornography, and pastors are not immune according to www.expastor.com.    On a survey of 1,351 pastors conducted on Rick Warren’s website www.pastors.com relating to porn use, 54% of pastors had viewed internet porn in the past year and 30% had viewed an internet porn within the past 30 days.  Patrick Means, author of, Men’s Secret Wars, reveals that 63% of pastors surveyed confirm that they are struggling with sexual addiction or sexual compulsion including, but not limited to, the use of pornography, or other secret sexual activity.  Further, seventy-five percent of pastors do not make themselves accountable to anyone for their Internet use.

In 2009, Steve Farrar interviewed some 200 pastors who had moral failures with women and had fallen into disgrace by having affairs.  There were 3 primary reasons that surfaced:

1) They had stopped having quiet times;

2) They were not accountable to any other men for their spiritual growth, and

3) They counseled women in private.

I will focus on the first and second reasons – the lack of a quiet time and lack of accountability.  Two scriptures come to mind – both of which have the “So That” in them:

“Do not let the Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night SO THAT you may be careful to do everything written in it.”  Joshua 1:8

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, SO THAT the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”                                   2 Timothy 3:16-17

These passages basically say that if you stay in the Word and have a regular quiet time, then you will be less likely to get off the narrow path.  Understand that I am not trying to single out Pastors for their moral failures, although they are a category of people that you would not expect to have these kinds of failures. Moral failures happen to people in any occupation, so the lessons from the Pastors applies to everyone.

The other key ingredient, of course, is to have someone you are accountable to – it can be a peer, or a mentor.  Someone who will ask you the hard questions and to whom you have built a trust with.  A person whose goal is to help you be the best you can be as God created you SO THAT you don’t end up being interviewed on why you ran off the rails and nobody was watching or caring. No one, not just pastors, are immune from temptations, so it takes discipline to insure that one does not become a statistic of a moral failure.

How’s your quiet time?  Do you have someone you are accountable to?  If the answers to either of those questions is “no”, then you may be an accident waiting to happen.  Pray about what you should do about it today.

 

Bill Mann