Thursday, February 23, 2012

Making Your Way Prosperous

My wife worked with master motivator Zig Ziglar for years so I had many opportunities to spend a little one on one time with him.  I can tell you that he was a genuine off the stage as he was on the stage.  His book “See You at the Top” was built on the premise that if you help others to succeed and achieve their goals, you will also succeed. 

Ok, I can’t resist, here’s a quick list from Zig’s book.
1) Success starts with self-image because you are the only one who can make that possible. Before you convince anyone else, you have to convince yourself.

2) Successful people are ‘Good Finders’; they look for the good in other people. “You can have anything in your life, if you help others get what they want.”

3) No goals = no game. Activity is not accomplishment. Don’t be a wandering generality. Goals should be big, long range, daily and specific.

4) Unlimited possibilities. Records were meant to be broken. Until Roger Bannister ran the four-minute mile, most thought it was physically impossible. After his achievement, people broke the record constantly.

5) Work as a team. There is a limit to what you can accomplish by yourself. Example: Geese fly 72% farther by flying together.

6) Attitude is everything. It determines the outcome. While you cannot control the environment, you (and only you) can control your attitude. The pessimist says. “I will believe it when I see it.” The optimist says, “I will see it when I believe it.”

7) Create good habits because habits define our lives. Example: The average teenage student watches 17,000 hours of television before they graduate high school.

8) Successful people enjoy their work.

9) Keep going. "The price of success is less than the price of failure".  

So, with all that being said, what am I about to say?  That I was reminded of these principles as I was reading Genesis 39 this morning...which immediately reminded me of Psalm 1:1-3.  Zig was always very forthright about taking Biblical principles of success and applying them life.

Joseph, 11th son of Jacob, firstborn of Rachel, has been sold by his brothers into a life of slavery.  He is purchased by Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh.  Let’s be honest with ourselves, if you were placed in the same position most of us would be complaining, screaming, seeking justice and revenge.  We would be seeking to escape, a way to get home to the plush life of multi-colored robes, no hard labor, favorite son status and the affluent life. 

Most of us complain when small changes take place at work.  We complain when we encounter just the slightest of hardship that upsets the perfect and harmonious balance of life.  All I see in the first few verses of Gen. 39 is the right stuff.  Joseph clearly has a right attitude despite his circumstances.  Joseph becomes successful in Potiphar’s household because he is a hard worker, he desires to see his master succeed, and he acknowleges God whom he serves.  God blesses Joseph AND everyone sees that it is the Lord that is bringing the increase.  How do they know it is the Lord?  BECAUSE Joseph isn’t hiding who he serves, it is GOD.  Joseph doesn’t keep quiet that he is a Hebrew and serves the creator of heavens and earth.  That’s why! 

Over the past few weeks there has been a lot of external pressures in my little world.  New software at work has wreaked havoc and I have had more than my share of angry customers.  I was reminded of a few months back when I saw my right attitude have a positive influence on my employers.  I saw their business growing like wildfire and I knew God was blessing.  But this morning I was reminded that my attitude at work is not all that it has been or should be.  It’s my choice.  Right attitude, helping others (sounds a lot like the two great commandments, Love God, Love Others).  What will you choose? 

“Blessed is the man
    who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
    nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and on his law he meditates day and night.
3 He is like a tree
    planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
    and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.”
(Psalm 1:1-3 ESV)

Monday, February 20, 2012

One of the Greatest Chapters ever Written

Genesis 24

This chapter tears at my soul as one of the greatest chapters in the Bible.  Abraham, like Job, has been fully and completely blessed by God.  The abundant life that Abraham enjoys he owes to God.  Abraham’s long-time wife has passed away, his only son Isaac remains and before Abraham leaves this earth, he wants to make sure his son has the right spouse to live out his life, as he did. 

But these verses are so much more than finding a wife for Isaac, they are resounding assurance of Abraham’s faith in the promises of God.  He has seen God work over and over and over and continues to rely on God’s providence in every aspect of his life.  Abraham, even advanced in years, is not willing to compromise his confidence in his God.  Abraham has wealth and abundant resources at his disposal, yet he still relies on God.  This lesson should not be missed as dwellers in North America, the prosperity of God often sways us to rely on the blessings, instead of the one who provides the blessings.

The right woman for Isaac
We see in a few chapters that Isaac’s son will chose a wife from the daughters of the Canaanites that will cause his parents grief and effect his life’s direction.  The FIRST THING we see Abraham doing is
1) Finding the right spouse for his son, regardless of the cost.
-The journey is not a family vacation to disney world, it is a long arduous trip fraught with danger.  It would require man-power, time and resources.
2) Abraham wants his #1 to swear an oath to his faithfulness.  He is not willing to take a chance, he wants his servants utmost tenacity to accomplish the task.
3) Abraham believes in God’s direction and guidance to fulfill this task.  “He will send his angel before you”.  (Confidence in God)
4) Everyone has observed that Abraham’s God is powerful and watches over him (23:6; 21:22).  The servant has seen first hand, God’s blessing on Abraham’s life.  Perhaps this servant was at the tent when God came to visit him with two angels.  He knows enough to pray to Abraham’s God and intercede on behalf of Abraham (v.12). 
5) His timing is perfect.  He brings his camels to drink at just the right time.  He positions himself for the best chance of success.
6) He has a plan in mind and prays to Abraham’s God that He will bless his plan and make known the right woman...the one that God has already chosen for Isaac (v.14).
7) While the words were still on his lips...God answers his prayer.  God was already sovereignly working to fulfill the prayer he was about to pray.  God did not leave him hanging, oh what a joy when God answers like this.
8) The prayer is simple, honest, and all about his master.  He asks for success for the sake of his master, not so that he would look good.  He tells God exactly where he is (standing by the spring of water), he tells God his idea and asks for a simple sign of assurance to know which one is the right one. 
9) The sign was one that showed kindness and generosity on the part of the young girl.  It reflects an unselfish attitude, kindness to strangers and initiative to go the extra mile even when you are not asked.  This girl is clearly the type of girl that any young man would want to marry.
10) He silently observes her.  Is there anything about this girl that would reflect a negative spirit?  He only has a few moments to make the decision...though God has confirmed his prayers he again wants to position himself for success and not failure. 
11) Not only does Rebekah provide water for him and water for his camels, but she is from the right family and even a close relative of Abraham (v.22-24).  You couldn’t arrange a more perfect marriage...unless you are God.
12) The right response (which so often we neglect).  God has answered his prayers, God has clearly sent his angel (as Abraham said) to prepare the way and what is his response?  I can’t wait to meet your family, hurry, let’s go.  NO, “the man bowed his head and worshiped the Lord” (v.26).  What a beautiful incredible inspiring breathtaking verse.  Memorize that verse, it’s only 10 words.  “The man bowed his head and worshiped the Lord.”  Now insert your name where it says “the man”.   your name bowed his/her head and worshiped the Lord.

Once again the “right response” to answered prayer is exhibited by the servant in verse 52.  After receiving a favorable response to his marriage proposal for Isaac, he again “bowed himself to the earth before the Lord.”  

This servant, in the midst of the excitement, did not forget to stop and thank God for hearing and answering his prayers.  It is the “right and proper” response to a loving and sovereign God.  This is a strong take-away point for me, maybe it is for you too.

I think so often we settle for less than God’s best.  We get a few victories and we stop short of finishing the task, unlike this servant that not only stops to thank and worship, he refuses to eat and get distracted with the celebrations until the task is completely accomplished.  How easy it would have been to begin the celebration without giving thanks to whom all the success was due. 
The chapter finishes this beautiful story by a servant’s tenacity to see this task finished in a timely manner.  He does not want to delay God’s glory as he presents Rebekah to Isaac and father-in-law Abraham.  Isaac loves Rebekah (v.67) and their marriage is the fulfilment of this task but only the beginning of a lifetime of God’s blessing on their life. 

This servant went in the strength of knowing a godly boss, who trusted in God’s ability to provide.  He prays to Abraham’s God because he has observed first-hand Abraham’s faith and God’s response.  He has witnessed Abraham’s relationship with God and knows that what Abraham has is not fake, it is not show, it is genuine, it is authentic and his God is real.

Who are you influencing?