You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. John 15:15 (NIV)

Chosen is a word that has rolled around my noggin for the past week.  We see it often in scripture in both the Old and New Testament.  Abraham and Moses were chosen by God to lead Israel.  The Nation Israel were the “chosen” people by God (Deuteronomy 7:6).

In the New Testament, all of us are the chosen people, not just the nation Israel. Every believer is part of this.   In 1 Peter 2:9 we learn that “we are the chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light”.

Jesus was God’s chosen servant (Matthew 12:18).   We all remember the baptism scene where the spirit of the Lord in the form of a dove lands on Jesus and God proclaimed “This is my son whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17).

The Apostles were chosen by Jesus. The Lord told Ananias that Saul was “my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel.” Acts 9:15.

Note that in every case where someone is chosen, there is a responsibility attached.  Each one  selected by God was chosen for a purpose. Moses was to be the leader of the Israelites in their exodus from Egypt.  But even Moses had grave doubts, and several times asked God to pick someone else. In that well-known scene before the burning bush, Moses asks God “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”  (Exodus 3:11).

God’s answer to Moses is clear: “I will be with you.”  Period. He didn’t say to Moses: you’ve got the right stuff to do what I want.  No, what he said was not complicated. Not a lot of conditions or regulations went with it.  Just simply:  I will be with you every step of the way.

Which leads me to the verse in John 15:15 that has changed my thinking on this topic. In the middle of what I call the “Abide” chapter where Jesus uses the analogy of the vine and the branches, there is the verse written above. It was the first time that realized I was chosen and that I hadn’t done the choosing when I decided to follow Jesus at age 38.

Until I read that passage and understood it and embraced it, I had subliminally thought that my becoming a believer was my own choice.   My choice, not His. At least that’s what I thought until I read John 15:15. It finally sunk in that God had been with me even when I didn’t realize it.  Wow.  I was 180 degrees off course in my thinking.

But life is difficult sometimes.  There are many times in my life when I didn’t feel chosen.  In fact, there were times when I doubted God was with me and I felt disconnected.  I had a hard time seeing God’s hand in financial distress which almost drove me to bankruptcy in the late 1980’s. I didn’t feel so special when I burned out because I ignored the effect of high stress in my life.

Nor did I feel chosen when I got prostate cancer and even now, I don’t feel chosen when I am tempted.  Life sometimes makes us forget that we are chosen forever and that God is with us every step of the way.

I have mentored and met with several men who also face challenges in their lives.  A wayward child, an illness, death of a friend, financial difficulties, marital difficulties, etc.   I try to encourage them through their challenges.   Now that I think about it, I am reminding them that they are chosen, and that like Moses, God will be with them wherever their journey takes them.  Very simple message. Emanuel.  God with us.

The second part of the verse in ohn 15:15 is even more challenging.  It provides the purpose for being chosen: we are to bear fruitWe are to point to Jesus in everything that we do or say.  Not sometimes, but all the time.  Not just when things are going well, but in all circumstances and challenges.  Even at life’s darkest moments. We are not alone.  We have Emanuel.

So, the challenge to each of us is clear.  Do you have challenges that face you causing you not to think of yourself as chosen, and not realizing that God is with you?  I have two suggestions:  Remember the power of God resides within you, and seek others to help you through your difficult times. God didn’t put any of us on this earth to be alone.  He put us here to be in relationship to others. A mentor or trusted friend can be just the encouragement you need when you need it most.

As a mentor, do you know others who are going through dark times and need a word of encouragement.  Don’t be passive:  reach out to them and remind them they are chosen, and that God is with them. Emanuel.

MENTOR TAKEWAY:  One of the purposes God has for mentors is to help others fight through challenges.  Reminding your mentees that they are chosen is a good start.

WORSHIP: Listen to Chris Tomlin sing Emanuel – Hallowed Manger Ground, reminding us that God is with us.

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What’s more, don’t let yourselves be squeezed into the shape dictated by the present age. Instead, be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you can work out what God’s will is, what is good, acceptable and complete.  Romans 12:2 (NTE)

In writing my last post entitled “Change”, it occurred to me that one topic might need a little more airing out verbally.  We are a product of our environment – our family and friends, as well as our education. In many cases, they often set the bar as to what our expectations should be – what we should be when we “grow up.”

The first person I mentored several years ago is a perfect example.  His father was a successful lawyer – a contemporary of mine that I knew, but I had never met his son.   He went to college without any real idea of a career, and ended up going to law school.  He hated it. So much so, that he started played golf instead of going to class.  Funny thing happened:  his grades improved even though he put in less effort. He tried to rebel, but his intellect carried him forward to an uncertain career.

Upon graduation, he went to work in his father’s law firm.  After several years, his unhappiness had not subsided which is about the point in time that I was introduced to him.  A Christian counselor who was a mutual friend, called me up and said that he thought I could help this young man.  So, we met together for coffee, and he told me his story of woe. He had followed his father’s footsteps without consciously thinking about what he wanted to do, as opposed to what his family expected of him. He is not alone, I would submit.

I think we see this happen all the time.  Kids often decide they want to be doctors or artists, athletes or presidents, or even business people.  The plans may be from the children, but frequently, it is really part of their parent’s plans. The direction may be unintentional – not all parents push their children to a certain destination.  As the kids get older, they often realize that their “dreams” are their parent’s dreams which they have followed.

In the millennial world, the picture of expectations becomes even more complicated, largely because of parenting styles.  On the one hand, there are parents who vicariously live through their children, often pushing them to do things that they didn’t do themselves. I’ve seen that all too often in sports – particularly soccer – where the parents are so over-involved in their children’s participation.

Soccer and other youth leagues now have rules of behavior for parents on the sidelines because they are so “into” the competition that they often bark at the referees. Now they can get thrown out of the game, even though they are spectators.  Not a picture of a good role model.

On the other side is the parenting style that tries to build self-esteem by telling millennials that they are all super, and gives them certificates of participation for everything. No one wins and no one loses in this scenario.  As one of my mentee noted yesterday at lunch, this unreal expectation causes problems when you get into the real world and there are actual winners and losers.  When you get a job, your individual performance counts when it comes to compensation.  You don’t get a raise or a promotion just by taking up space.

In my own life, I was the only person in my family that went to law school, and my desire to do that came while I was in college. It was through meeting the father of one of my close friends and talking about his career that got me interested. My dad felt that I should consider business as well, and in my last year of law school, he encouraged me to continue my education by continuing my education to get a Masters in Business Administration (MBA). He was a business man, and that was what he knew best.

I concluded that three years of graduate school was enough education, and so I stayed with law as a career. Ironically, years later, I was selected to be on the management of a large international law firm.  During my ten years of management, I often reflected that my role in management might have been easier with an MBA.

Like my mentee, and to a certain extent myself, we often go through life trying to play a role which meets the expectations of our family (including our spouse) or culture itself. Since I didn’t come to faith until I was 38, I had no feeling for what God wanted me to do.  Yet, when I look back, I can see his imprint on my life, even though I didn’t realize it at the time.

What I now know is that God had something unique for me to do, even though my father had other expectations. When I came to faith, I wondered what God wanted me to do.  It was a new inquiry. I’d never considered what His purpose was for my life.

One other aspect of expectations is those expectations that we have for ourselves. Some people often have very high expectations and goals.  Often, it is not the product of parental influence.  While I would say that this is generally a good thing, I have learned that too much of a good thing may be bad.  I have a close friend whose son was hard-wired to achieve his set of exceptional goals, and he achieved them as he grew. He had a 25-year plan for his life.  But his own expectations were so high that he couldn’t handle failure, and one bad test grade in college sent him into a tailspin.

You see, like many millennials, he hadn’t learned to handle failure. While I didn’t like getting a bad grade, I learned from it when it happened. It was unpleasant, but it didn’t drive me into deep depression.  I bounced back, and figured out that what I had done to prepare for the test in that subject needed improvement.  The millennials today aren’t getting that experience of dealing with failure.  Instead of getting a bad grade, they get a certificate of participation along with the rest of the students.  There are no winners or losers.

As a mentor, one of the things we can provide is to help our mentees become the best they can be for what God created them for.  Their journey is different from others, and often may defy their families’ expectations. It’s important to spend time and listen to your mentee’s story.  I start every mentoring relationship with one question: “Tell me your story.”  I take notes and I often go back to them to find clues about their makeup, desires and experiences. It helps me understand them better.

The challenge is clear.  There are a lot of millennials who don’t have someone to come alongside them and give them guidance or input as to what their goals should be.  They need that input.  I wonder if my own Dad’s desire to have me get an MBA had come from a someone else.  I might have listened.  It wasn’t until later in life that I realized how smart my father was, and my refusal to take it seriously was probably a vestige of adolescence where we often tune out our parents.

A mentor can fill in the gap with his or her mentees.  He has no baggage that comes with parenting, and advice or counsel on careers or other goals setting up expectations often carries more weight.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  Help your mentee manage his expectations by setting goals that are consistent with his strengths, talents and passions and the way God has created him or her.

WORSHIP:  Listen to Big Daddy Weave sing a song from their album entitled “What I Was Made For”:

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 And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  Matthew 18:3

After 3 days of skiing, I sat in the Denver airport waiting for my flight home to board, and started reading my Saturday stuff – my daily devotion and then looking at the news, the Wall Street Journal, my email, etc. Something I’ve grown accustomed to doing in the morning.  One of the things in my email is a news aggregator from Apple News which has several articles to read for the weekend.  The first of this was entitled “You (and your Therapist) Can Change Your Personality.”

No, I am not making this up. The article goes into great depth of the various studies, some of which are contradictory, as to  whether you can, in fact, change.  One extreme line of thought from a 2010 article on psychology says that you are stuck with who you are – your personality is genetically imbedded. This line of thought says that your personality is “stubborn” and is formed in early childhood and lasts through adulthood.

The other line of thought is more optimistic (if that’s what you can call it) and labels your personality as so unstable that trying to measure any change is worthless. In this month’s Psychology Bulletin, a review of 207 studies suggest that personality can and does change, often very frequently, but only with the help of a therapist. Really! The article goes on to state that personalities generally change with age – the older you get the more mellow you become.  My wife would agree with that statement.

I forwarded the article on to my Christian counselor friend, Paula Rinehart, and asked her what she thought.   She said she saved the article because she found it interesting that a therapist could affect neurotic behavior in only 90 days.  Then she said this: “Really, it [the article] upholds much of what we know by experience about how life inside relationships in the Body [of Christ] …. changes me as an individual.

As I was reading this, I had to reflect on my own experiences and observations. Given that the studies were entirely secular, I can’t help but believe that the researchers are overlooking the possibility that coming to a relationship with Christ can change your personality and behavior.  One only should look at Paul’s conversion – the life before and his life after conversion – to see that transformation is entirely possible. He went from persecutor to persecuted on the Damascus Road.

I have used Myers Briggs personality profiles in mentoring.  They are useful in telling how one is “hard-wired” or their default inclinations when it comes to personality traits.  But, even the article admits reflects what it calls a “sociogenic” side of your personality may affect your hard wiring.  The “hard-wired” side is called “biogenic”, but factors which are social in nature can make changes through clinical therapy or real life experiences.

I would take issue with the academic world of psychology and their conclusions.  I have seen remarkable changes in people’s personalities after they have had a conversion experience. With the imbedding of the Holy Spirit for the first time, their actions often are controlled by a greater power.  They start to exhibit the fruit of the spirit for the first time in their lives. That’s real change, and they didn’t need a therapist for it to happen.

In my own case, I won’t say that my personality changed overnight after my faith experience at age 38.  But as I got into the Word and learned what God expected of me as a husband, father and provider I realized God wanted me to change.  The first thing that changed (and quickly, too) was my language.  Not that I was a profane person, but I was often less careful with my language than I should have been.

Change through Christ is possible.  Anything is possible through God, so this should not be a startling conclusion.  I’ve used the MB (Myers Briggs) profiles to help those I mentor to learn about how their default wiring works. As in all things, the assessment is not entirely 100% accurate, nor are similar types of tests like the DISC test.  But they are a tool in helping me understand my mentee and help him understand himself.

We all have strengths and weaknesses, and learning about your personality gives you clues as to what those strengths and weaknesses are.  It is a departure point for helping a mentee figure out how to best tackle his or her vision. When I encountered my first mentee years ago, I didn’t use MB Profiles, but, in hindsight, I managed to figure out how he was “wired” which led to my understanding of how to help him.

After listening to him articulate why he was unhappy in his chosen profession as a lawyer, I asked him if there was anything on his desk that he enjoyed doing.  The answer was yes, there were, in fact, some things he enjoyed doing, but he was also doing a lot of things he didn’t like. What emerged from that was that he was a specialist doing a general practice.

In other words, he worked best when he performed tasks which he had mastered, but he struggled when each task was new and unfamiliar. My suggestion was simple: eliminate the things that frustrate you and makes you unhappy, and over time, you will be better off.

The solution was achievable. We started to help him develop his practice doing only the things he enjoyed, at the same time slowly eliminating those matters that made him unhappy.  I told him it would take 3 years to accomplish, but that if he stuck to it, he would have transformed his practice into on that he enjoyed. It worked.

While I can’t say that he changed his personality, he did change his attitude and blossomed with a new enthusiasm for life because he could see that he would not be stuck in a rut for the rest of his career.  Life is better when you enjoy what you do for work.

I enjoy reading Henry Cloud.  He’s very practical. In his book entitled “Never Go Back: 10 Things You’ll Never Do Again“, he advances the proposition that “change is a process.” While I won’t go through all of his suggestions, I want to highlight a couple, particularly if you have things in your life that you want to change. Sometimes they may be life patterns that are very resistant to change.

The first suggestion was that “self-help is an oxymoron.  I resonated with that when I read it.  Where he goes with that is that if your imbedded patterns are ones that you cannot change, you need to reach outside yourself and put a “never-go-back” team together.  It might be a support group, therapist, peer group or mentor. He concludes: “Oftentimes, change can only be empowered by outside sources: God and other people. So reach out and ask for help.”

The second suggestion comes from John 15:  “Stay online with God for System Updates“.  We are designed to be connected to God and his power.   “To truly be all that we were designed to be and accomplish all that we area able tot accomplish, we need to be plugged in to God and his power.”  Good stuff!

 The challenge here is straight forward.  Change in your life is possible, but it can be hard.  As I have said before, Christianity is a team sport. You can help your mentee advance the ball and become the best he or she can be by figuring out how they are hard-wired.  It offers a clue into what is possible (or not).  You may not be able to change their personality – that’s not your job. But you can help them harness how they are wired in making progress towards their goals.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  Use personality assessments with your mentee to help both you and he (or she) understand how they are wired. It can be a valuable glimpse into how to make them succeed in life.

FURTHER STUDY:  Henry Cloud’s book on “You’ll Never Go Back: 10 Things You’ll Never Do Again” is available in Kindle on Amazon.

WORSHIP: Listen to Bethel Music sing “You Make me Brave

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Woe to those who go to great depths to hide their plans from the Lord, who do their work in darkness and think, “Who sees us? Who will know?”  Isaiah 29:15

This is yet another post that has been fomenting in the back of my mind. We all have a personal image – it may be based on who we are, but more often, it is what we want people to see.  We are all insecure at some level, and we want the world to think well of us.  At least I do.  I want to be remembered for the good things I did in life, not for the stupid things of which there are many.

We all have a level of vanity as to our appearance.  If we didn’t, the cosmetics, clothing and fashion industry would dry up over-night.  We spend hours a week in front of a mirror putting on makeup, shaving, fixing our hair or eyelashes, and making sure our outward appearance is just right. And that’s before we decide on what we are going to wear for the day.

We cultivate our image.  The millennials cultivate a “public” image on social media, often softening the bad things that happened and showing only the things that they think will develop their image.  It is often overstated or exaggerated.  Or, put another way, it is a lie.

Study after study shows the millennials want authenticity in their lives and friends.  Yet much of their social communication is in-authentic. The picture may be photo-shopped or touched up Their comments exaggerated or just plain wrong.  They put on a good game face that they are having a better time than is real.  Their audience, on the other hand, worries that they are missing out.

They may exaggerate their accomplishments or claim degrees in their resume that they don’t have.  It’s called an “inflated” resume, and it is an all too common phenomena that has led to the downfall of a number of high-profile people – both in the sports world and in business. Inflated resumes are not limited to millennials, by any means.

Certainly, there are probably strong extroverts that have such a strong self-image that they don’t care about what you think about them.  Sociopaths don’t have a conscience, for example.  Narcissists also fall into the category – they are blinded into thinking they are always right and anything that goes wrong is someone else’s fault. There is a disconnect of reality from image.

Your self-image is tied to your own self-esteem, and educators have gone down the path of tilting our educational system trying to build self-esteem. The movement started in California in the early 1990’s and ignores the reality of life.   Life is competitive and there are winners and losers.  Our schools now give out Certificates of Participation like candy, intending to build up self-esteem by making students feel better about themselves.

To me, it’s a false and inappropriate goal.  Students need to learn to live with failure to learn the hard lessons of life.  Without those bruises, they enter adulthood with a distorted concept of what the world is like.  In life, there are hard knocks and sometimes hard landings.

Part of the premise of the educators is false because the studies they rely on for support are often based on self-reporting.  That is, they ask the students how they feel, which often leads to what image of themselves do they want the world to see. That is a flawed methodology per Alphie Kohn in a 1994 article entitled “The Truth About Self-Esteem”.

His comments are based on reviews of some 10,000 studies on the topic. Kohn goes on to describe that the premise that feeling good about oneself leads to “constructive life choices – or at least the absence of destructive behavior” is not born out by the data.

 We are living in a post-modern and post-Christian era for the first time in our culture. It is a brave new world.  A world without truth being a strong cultural value, and where the Asian value of “saving face” trumps the need to tell the truth.

An outward image that we want to project belies what is going on inside.  We might “look good and smell good” to others. In reality, we may be eaten up on the inside due to emotions, uncertainties, or circumstances.  You might be laughing on the outside but crying on the inside. This is the “dark side” of what is happening to our adolescents (to borrow a phrase from Star Wars).

Recent studies confirm this. Adolescent suicide has risen dramatically over the last decade.  It is the third leading cause of death for 15 to 24 year olds in the U.S. behind accidents and homicide.

According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control), one in five teenagers contemplate suicide in the U.S. That statistic is alarming. I have spoken to parents who have had children deal with this issue, and they didn’t see the warning signs.

In 2003, one million teenagers attempted suicide. 300,000 required hospitalization and around 1,700 died.  That study was done 14 years ago.  The results have only gotten worse in the last decade.

There are warning signs including depression, but those are often overlooked by an adolescent who “appears” to be doing all right, even to their friends or family.  Another study indicated that clinical depression has increased 37% over the past ten years in this same age group.  Between 20% and 39% of adolescents have “one major depressive episode before they reach adulthood.”

A 2016 study of international students in the UK said that 58% of respondents in the 15-24 age group felt that they feared for their future. 28% felt out of control of their lives.

Our self-esteem doesn’t come from our image.  Don’t tell that to the cosmetic or fashion industry who would have you believe that your looks are the most important aspect of your self-esteem or inner self.  To me, it’s just window dressing. I’m more concerned with the “appearance” of my mentee’s insides – what’s going on that can’t be seen or touched.

As mentors, we can communicate to our mentees the one thing that they need to hear: “I believe in you.”  Nothing else you say or do will have a bigger impact.

When I started this post, I hadn’t planned to end up discussing the high incidence of depression and suicide in the next generation.  Then I saw the numbers and studies. It changed my mind.  There is an obvious disconnect between our perceived public image with our private self.  The next generation is good at fixing their outside image; the person inside, not so much.

Putting on a game face with an outward image doesn’t deal with the inside issues. The next generation need to be affirmed as being one of God’s children and that’s all that matters. The other issue is that many adolescents have gone through life without failing. They don’t know how to deal with failure, so when it occurs (and it will), they do not know how to cope.

I meet with a man who ministers to teens, and recently there was a suicide at the local high school by a teen that appeared to “have it together.” Everyone was soul-searching on what signs they missed in being able to prevent such a tragedy.  I don’t have a pat answer to the problem, but I can raise awareness that this next generation is facing issues that were not prevalent in years past.

 As parents, mentors or just friends, we are the front lines.  It’s our input into others’ lives that matters.  We can give that reality check – an objective read on who you are, not who you want to project to others. Mentors may be in the best position, largely because adolescents turn a deaf ear to their parents.  Their hearing gets restored eventually, but often after a decade or more later.

A mentor is more likely to have real communication with the next generation because they don’t have the baggage of being their mentee’s parent. When failure occurs (and it most assuredly will), we can be the front lines to help others pick themselves up, dust them off, and then send them back into the battleground of life.

 MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  As a mentor, just listening is valuable.  Your mentee wants to be “heard.” So is telling them “I believe in you.”

FURTHER STUDY:  Read Alphie Kohn’s article entitled The Truth About Self-Esteem

2013 Study on adolescent suicide:

UK Study on stressed out young adults:

A 2014 study on adolescent suicide:

WORSHIP: Listen to Hillsong sing Oceans (Where My Feet May Fail):

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Commit your actions to the Lord, and your plans will succeed. Proverbs 16:3 (NLT)

This is a topic that has always interested me.  How do you define success?  Is it a matter of your accomplishments in your job, your profession?  Is it tied to your family – being a successful parent, sibling or parent?  Or, for those rare few, is it a product of achieving a championship in your sport?

You might ask the coach of the University of Clemson football team what he thinks about success.  You see, Clemson was the underdog (at least to everyone else), when they played the University of Alabama for the National Championship last week.

They won the game in the last second.  Literally.  Deshaun Watson, the Clemson quarterback, completed a pass to Tucker Renfrow in the end zone for the winning touchdown with 1 second left on the game clock to win the game 35 to 31.

But listening to Davo Swinney, the Clemson coach, before the game, I was struck by one thing he told his players: “Let the light inside you be brighter than the light that shines on you on the outside.”  When I repeated what he said afterwards to my wife, she said “there’s a post in that statement.”  She was right.

The Clemson story gets better when you learn about Davo’s humble upbringing. He was the product of a broken home: an alcoholic father, and his family lost their home in foreclosure when he was a teenager.  When in college, his mother had no other place to live so she moved in with her son and they shared a bedroom in a tiny apartment with another student when he was in college.

For most young men in college, it’s a time to enjoy life.  But not for Davo.  He was a walk-on on the Alabama football team and earned a scholarship after two years.  After college, he ended up in the coaching profession. His outspoken faith got him in a controversy in 2014 when an anti-Christian Foundation wrote Clemson University to complain that Swinney’s open Christianity with the football team at a public university was unconstitutional.

I won’t go into the legal aspects of the charges in the letter, but this is a time when public Universities are quick to bow to any pressure about embracing Christianity.  But not Clemson. To their credit, they backed Swinney. When asked about it, Swinney said “We weren’t doing anything (wrong).  Ain’t nothing to change.”

I’ve heard it said that sometimes good guys win.  But winning the National Championship wasn’t everything to Davo Swinney.  Building character into his players was just as important. He is a remarkable example of not just being successful, but being significant in God’s eyes.

I was listening to a song by Francesca Battistelli entitled He Knows My Name. The lyrics are a perfect expression of the theme of this post:   “I don’t need my name in lights, I’m famous in my Father’s eyes. [….]  I’m not living for applause, I’m already so adored.”

You see, success here on earth is just one aspect of your life.  In my professional life, I achieved some remarkable milestones and received peer recognition by being listed in Super Lawyers, Best Lawyers in America, and North Carolina’s Legal Elite, among others.  Only a small percentage in my profession achieve those lists. For example, only 3% of North Carolina lawyers are selected to the annual North Carolina Legal Elite list.

Ironically, I still get emails from Martindale Hubbell, another national peer rating list, telling me that I have again achieved their highest rating (AV) for 2017.  The only problem?  I retired in 2013. It makes me chuckle. I might still be getting their award after I am dead, too, but I doubt I can get my emails in heaven so I may never know for sure.

As I look backwards over my legal career, I don’t dwell on those accomplishments.  I am more proud of my achievements as a person in providing services to my clients and how I related to my peers and everyone I worked with.   I tried to make being a “Christian lawyer” not be an oxymoron.

Part of my thinking was shaped by Half Time:  Moving from Success to Significance written by Bob Buford in 1997. Buford wrote a sequel to the book in 2016 entitled Beyond Half Time.  Buford aimed the book at those that have achieved success in their careers, but felt that they wanted more.  They wanted to replace success with significance – finding some way to take their Christian faith and make a difference in other people’s lives.

Buford’s books have been best sellers. Why is that?  Well, I can only look at my own experience to provide an answer. You see, I learned that professional accolades and accomplishments go only so far to fill one’s need to be successful in God’s eyes. Ten years from now, the players on the Clemson team will feel the same way.  Oh, yes, they will be proud of their Championship on the field, but you can’t live in the past.

For many who have achieved success in the world’s eyes, they realize that the accolades are fleeting.  They don’t last and have no eternal significance.  As the new testament tells us, those trophies will only rust away.

My retirement was the start of my “Half-Time”.  Not that I have an equal amount of years left, but I have tried to devote them in ways that have eternal significance by mentoring young men and doing leadership training of pastors around the world through MentorLink.   I am investing in lives of men and women, each of them at different points in their lives.

I cannot predict the outcomes of my investments.  Unlike a portfolio of public stocks where you can look at what price the stock is trading on the internet, the “market” value and returns on my investment can’t be seen or priced like a stock.

All I can see is that I am providing input and acting as a sounding board to each of my mentees as they face the daily challenges of life.  I used to get paid for my legal advice.  Now I get to watch God work in my mentee’s lives which is more valuable than money to me.

The challenge here is to look at your job – your occupation or profession – as an opportunity to serve others – your clients, your customers and your colleagues at work.  Being successful is fine, but leaving a lasting imprint of Christ on the lives of others is more important.  It is letting the light within you shine bright.   It has eternal significance.

If you are already successful or facing retirement, spend time with others talking about what you could do to have significance in this world.  Oh, and I would be remiss in not suggesting that you consider mentoring. It is badly needed by the next generation.

FURTHER STUDY:  Read the complete story (before the game) of Davo Swinney in the National Review.

Bob Buford’s Books are available on Amazon:  Half Time and Beyond Half Time:

WORSHIP: Join Matt Francesca Battistelli sing she sings “He Knows My Name

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A person without self-control is like a city with broken-down walls. Proverbs 25:28 (NLT)

I’ve written several posts covering attributes or core values that are needed to be successful in life.  They were inspired by Anita Etanga, who lives in Limbe, Cameroon.  She mentors teens.  I asked her what she thought the teens needed the most, and she quickly replied “They need values – they don’t have any!”

The next generation has not been instilled with any values that will guide their lives.  It’s a universal phenomena and its not just limited to Sub-Saharan Africa. There is a void that, if ignored, will not end well.

When I reflect on my other posts on core values, I may have missed the most important one: self-control.  It is the last “fruit” in the list of the fruit of the spirit in Galatians 5:23. It may be the last in the list, but I believe it is be the key to the others.

Why is self-control the most important?  I would submit that a person who does not exhibit or have self-control is not likely to exhibit other Christ-like values. The definition of self-control is “the ability to control oneself, in particular one’s emotions and desires or the expression of them in one’s behavior, especially in difficult situations”.

Self-control has two aspects – one positive and one negative.  The positive side of it is the self-discipline side – where you set a goal and are disciplined enough to pursue it and not let things get in the way.  With self-control, we can control doing bad things that we shouldn’t do, and conversely, it aids us in doing good things that we should do. The positive side of self-control is developing the discipline to do good things we should.

The Greek word “self-control” is egkrateia.  It means “temperance: the virtue of one who masters his desires and passions, especially his sensual appetites”.  With this definition, teens can learn that being tempted in the area of sexuality is normal. The lesson is that you can develop self-control in this area. This is the negative side of self-control – developing the ability to control the bad things that you shouldn’t do.

The above picture shows someone carefully crossing a stream.  A misstep has consequences.  Not having self-control can have consequences, too.  Not all of them are good, either. Self-control provides the basis for disciplining ourselves to do what we need to do today, so that, later, we can do what we want to do.

Almost everything in life goes better if you have self-control.  Without it, you may not have the internal discipline to get up early enough to get to work on time.  And, surely, you won’t be able to stop eating that entire bag of potato chips, even though you know it is bad for you.

How do you develop self-control?  I guess that’s the question for the ages.  Some people have a built-in GPS like my daughter, Liz.  She always able to be guided by an internal core set of values which controlled her behavior.  I never worried about her when she was growing up because of her strong innate self-control.

But not all are like my daughter.  Not all are wired with a rock solid built-in sense of right and wrong.  Her self-control permitted her to control her moods, her reactions and her words. It also extended to her behavior – her actions and reactions.

The disciplines you establish for today will determine your success tomorrow. I can attest to that principle.  Those with self-control can manage their money, their health and their schedule. Staying healthy requires the self-control to exercise regularly and eat correctly. It’s a continuing process.

I’ve been doing distance biking and swimming since 2015.  I started slowly – initially a few laps in the pool and a couple of miles on my bike.  I didn’t start by trying to do 40 miles on the bike or swimming a mile. Those distances are now the norm for me. But I must admit that there are days when I could easily pass up the exercise and I have to push myself.  That’s self-control: developing will-power to accomplish a goal.

For most of us, our own will-power is not enough for long-lasting self-control. It takes a power larger than ourselves.  God wants us to exhibit self-control which is why he sent the Holy Spirit to aid us.  “For the Spirit that God has given us does not make us timid; instead, his Spirit fills us with power, love, and self-control.” [2 Timothy 1:7 (TEV)].

One of the “12 steps” of Alcoholics Anonymous is for alcoholics to admit that there is a power greater than themselves which can help them overcome their addiction. It’s the key to tapping into a resource and power that is available for all believers.

So, the question is – for you and me – in what area of your life do you need to develop more self-control?  That’s our challenge for today.  Identify an area of your life that you feel is out of control, and pray to God and the Holy Spirit to help you conquer it.  He answers prayers, and you might be surprised at the result. After all, God is in the miracle business.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  Help your mentee identify critical areas in their life that need self-control.  Hold your mentee accountable by checking on their progress.

 WORSHIP: Join Matt Maher as he sings “Lord, I Need You.”

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One Word


My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, James 1:19

I’ve already done a post entitled “Five Words” which discussed what five words you would use to describe your father.  I am not going to get you to trim the list down to just one word.  Instead, I thought I would come up with an idea of  a way to self-improvement which is manageable.

My post on 1 Percent was a start at that process – looking for ways to improve in areas of your life not by giant leaps but tiny steps.  Looking for a 1% improvement on a continuing basis leads to big changes.

This post was inspired by a book by Mike Ashcroft entitled My One Word.  I was intrigued by the book title.  Ashcroft starts out by describing the self-help resources which promise to help you fix your finances, your health, your marriage, your kids, etc.

Most of the resources start with the line “Seven” (or Five, or Four, or some other number) things you can do to improve. Some of the resources were scary such as “Six Health Risks Everyone Faces” and one on “Avoiding Identity Theft.”  With the advent of the internet, these resources are available at your fingertips.

But the deluge of information almost paralyzes us into inaction.   If we followed all the advice through to its logical conclusion, we would have little time for anything else other than making lists of things “to-do”.

Even the Bible has “to-do” lists. I have a written a post that has a list of “One-Anothers” that goes through the verses that describe what we to do with “one another”.   I found some 27 different passages in Scripture that talk about these actions to others – pray, love, serve, encourage, and so on.  Hard to keep up with that many.

Ashcroft pivots from his inability to accomplish a lengthy “to-do” list to his concept which is to simplify the process and select one word and use it to focus your thoughts.  Yes, just one word. That’s about as simple as you can get.

He suggests that you choose one word that describes what you hope God will accomplish in you for the next year.  The word will be with you all year – something you can focus on, meditate on.

In 2004, Ashcroft chose the word FLOW, which came from John 7:38: “Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”   The word triggered something within him. He reflected on times when things from his heart flowed, but there were times when there was no flow.

Over time, he decided to use the word FLOW to judge how he was doing spiritually.  It meant a change of perspective – it was not an evaluation of what he was doing (i.e. his actions), but the condition of his heart by what was flowing out of it.

Ashcroft took his One Word concept to his church in 2007 and it had surprising results in the DNA of the members. It helped them focus on their spiritual formation and also gave them something to talk about. Conversations would start with the question “What’s your word?”

As I reflected on his concept, one word came to me for this year.  That word is LISTEN.  Again, it’s still early in the year. I want to hear God more, and listen to people better.  It’s an art, not a science, and I’ve just now begun to think of the implications for my life.

My wife will be glad to know that LISTEN is my one word for this year.  Even this past weekend, she said I was doing better at listening. Now I need to work on listening to God more.

I mentioned the theme of this post to my friend, Stacy Rinehart, at lunch yesterday.  He recalled that he had done something similar in the past where he started the year with one word to highlight during the year.  He said it was a good practice.

For those who want to learn more about the process, there is a video by Mike Ashcroft entitled “What’s Your One Word”  under FURTHER STUDY.   You can also get his book which describes the process of choosing the one word .

My challenge for you is to come up with one word for this year that will be the one thing you want to be your guide.  One word that will remind you to improve in a way you hadn’t been able to in the past.  One that will draw you closer to God.  You might even follow Mike Ashcroft’s example and take the idea to your church to see what happens.

FURTHER STUDY:  For the video What’s Your One Word:

The book My One Word is available at Amazon:

WORSHIP:   One word to describe Jesus is Cornerstone. Listen to the song by Hillsong:

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1 Percent


Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 1 Corinthians 9:24

When I was thinking about New Year’s resolutions, and why they often fail, I came across the kaIsen concept which originated in the United States, but the Japanese took it and perfected it. Kaisen, in Japanese, means improvement. The concept is simple and involves the idea of continuous improvement in very small increments – just 1% at a time.

You’ve heard the expression that “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”  Well the kaisen concept espresses that statement.  It puts the focus on each brick, not just a whole city.  It’s easy to think about bricks, but less easy to conceptualize building a city.

In 2010, David Brailsford was hired to direct and manage the British professional cycling team. His task was to make a winner out of them at a time when no British cyclist had ever won the Tour de France and the team had only one Olympic goal to their credit. He was tasked with changing that failure, and his approach is so incredibly simple.

Brailsford was interested in kaisen which is the concept of “aggregation of marginal gains”.  That’s a complex way of saying that very small gains, over time, will produce big results. He believed that if he could improve every aspect related to cycling by just one percent, those small gains would add up to remarkable improvement.

He did the normal things you might expect by getting small improvements in their equipment and nutrition, as well as their weekly training program. But his search for “one percent” improvement didn’t end with the obvious.  It included finding the best pillow to sleep on and finding a better fitting seat for the bicycle.

They even searched for better ways for the bikers to wash their hands to avoid getting infections or colds.  His goal was to make little changes over 5 years which would produce a British winner at the Tour de France.

He was wrong:  it only took 3 years. In 2012, Bradley Wiggins became the first British cyclist to win the Tour de France.  It didn’t stop there.  At the 2012 Olympics, the British team took 70% of the gold medals in cycling.  And, in 2013, another British cyclist, Chris Froome, won the Tour de France again.

So, what is the take away from using Brailford’s approach?  Jim Rohn put it this way: “Success is a few simple disciplines, practiced every day; while failure is simply a few errors in judgment, repeated every day.

Almost every habit – good or bad – is based on small decisions made over time. We underestimate the effect of making better decisions one at a time. Improving one percent at a time probably isn’t notable or even noticeable at the time. But over a long time, it results in a significant difference.

It works both ways – if you have developed bad habit or are getting poor results, it’s not because something happened yesterday or the day before.  It happened gradually as the sum of small choices – the “one percent“change in reverse.

Most of us won’t be training to win the Tour de France.  We might, however, set as a goal to lose 30 pounds, or grow spiritually by reading the bible at least four times a week.  The result of our small daily changes can pay big dividends. Losing 30 pounds might be easier if you think about cutting back on something small like one less soft drink a day.

If you decide that you want to be able to do more push ups, don’t try and do 100 to begin with. Start with one on the first day.  On the second day, do two of them, and then three on the third day.  That’s how incremental change will improve your strength over time.

If everyone in your organization is thinking about making small changes around them, it can be a positive thing.  The improvements don’t have to be huge to be beneficial – just 1%.  It can be contagious to an organization.

The challenge here is to look at your habits that you want to change. What improvement you want to make in your life or your habits?  Then look at what small daily steps – the “one percent” – that you can modify to reach the goal you want to accomplish. It’s a great model to adopt, and you might even succeed by winning a race along the way.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  The kaisen improvement concept can help your mentee start  small changes to bring about big changes over time.

FURTHER STUDY:  James Clear writes about the improvement of the British cycling team.

For a 2015 article on Kaisen in the Harvard Business Review:

Another article on Kaisen

WORSHIP:  Life is complex, but no matter what, “One Thing Remains”:

COMMENT:  I welcome comments on this or any other post. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page, or emailing me at

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