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Sunday, July 2, 2017

Effective Prayer

James 5:16  Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

In late August of 2008 hurricane “Gustav” crashed into Cuba, recording the highest wind gust ever recorded there - 211 mph. All of the computer models were forecasting a disastrous impact on the central Gulf Coast somewhere between Houston, Texas and Mobile, Alabama. The models showed that the storm would intensify to a “Category 5” storm, bringing devastation to the very cities and towns which had not completely recovered from Katrina - three years earlier. This was the third anniversary of Katrina’s landfall. On August 30, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin issued a mandatory evacuation of the entire city and nearly two million people evacuated from southern Louisiana in advance of the storm.

That evening, inside the walls of the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility, the KAIROS prison ministry meeting was closing a service of confession and forgiveness. Each participant  had just forgiven those who had hurt them deeply in the past. As I stood to offer the closing prayer, a rush of faith came over me to pray against the storm heading our way. Forgiving others clears us to be forgiven resulting in our prayers heard by God. Prayers in too many churches are ineffective, because of the lack of forgiveness. How can you rebuke a storm outside when there is a storm raging inside of you? 

We prayed for the storm in the Gulf to dissipate and be reduced in power. It would have been inappropriate to ask it to swerve away and hit another coast. We prayed for the Lord to rebuke the storm. 

There was a bit of spiritual pride later when Gustav, instead of intensifying over the warm gulf waters, dropped to a “Category 2” before making landfall on September 1st, west of New Orleans, in an evacuated area. But then on Monday evening,  my brother called from California to ask how we were doing as we were touched by the edge of the storm. He had been at a large Christian gathering in Anaheim, CA where they prayed that the storm would dissipate. He commented, “Prayer really does works!” 

That day, I opened an email prayer bulletin from another ministry. Their letter read,

“We believe that the Lord has given us authority to pray the death & destruction out of the hurricane and to command the winds to be diminished, and that is what we are doing.  We are asking all of you to join with us in our intercession for the Gulf Coast and the East Coast.”

During the “Cold War,” I watched - at close hand - the construction of the Berlin wall. Stationed in Germany at the time, in a small way participated  in the Allied response - a show of force the day after the wall went up. 

In the mid nineteen eighties, an organization of Christians, Intercessors for Germany, headed by Berthold Buecker, were led to bring German people  together to repent, East and West. They believed that this could destroy the strongholds of division that kept the Berlin wall in place. Later, though no one orchestrated it, East Germans began to come together in Leipzig, interceding fervently for the country.  They were at great risk because the "Stasi" were watching and recording.  Thousands gathered in the church and throughout the city. It was too late to stop the pendulum of history. 

In November of 1989, dismantling of the Berlin Wall began. In 1992, the demolition was completed making way for the reunification of Germany. Over the next several years we heard from literally hundreds of people  who had been in Germany and prayed that the wall would come down. Each one took some satisfaction in their part in praying down the wall. 

We can always be self-satisfied when our prayers are answered; whether we pray for a hurricane to dissipate, a wall to come down, or for some tyrant to be defeated. But we also have to realize that it is not about us. 

Though our prayers are effective, it is all about being a part of the Body of Christ and responding to the Holy Spirit as He calls us to pray. The Holy Spirit speaks to many at the same time and causes us all to pray the same way. 

Our prayers go up to God as a divine orchestra rather than a solo aria. The effectiveness of our prayers is based upon our submission to the maestro as He conducts the concert.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Ask The Right Questions, Solve the Problem

Luke 18:18 (NKJV) "Now a certain ruler asked Him, saying, 'Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?'" 

A young wealthy man had a problem. Something was missing in his life. So he went to Jesus and asked Him, "What must I do to inherit eternal life?"

Knowing the man's real problem, Jesus gave him the typical rabbinical response, "Follow the Law." 

The young seeker answered and said that he had done this his entire life, but still something was not right in his life. Jesus was waiting for this comment and cut right to the heart of the matter. He told him to sell everything and follow His leading. The cost was too high for the young man so he walked away in despair. 

When faced with difficult problems, we need solutions, but how do we identify the best answer to our situation? How do we solve our problems and know that we are making the right changes?

“Read the question.” 

These words were written at the top of the exam's first page in my Organic Chemistry class at Georgia Tech. I wish I had taken time to let those words sink into my my head. I wish I had taken time to let those words sink into my my head. Instead I jumped right into the test, worked the problems, finished ahead of everyone else, turned in my paper, and smugly walked out knowing I had aced the exam. When my paper came back, I was shocked at the "D-" written in red pencil at the top of the page. There was also a note  - and a note from the professor, "Read the Question." Apparently, I had not read each question carefully and there were a number of trick questions designed to not only measure the our knowledge of the subject, but to train us to think clearly. 

That incident changed my entire approach to solving test problems and also difficult personal problems. In addition it helped me raise my grade in that class to a high "B" even with that first bad grade. The need to understand the problem has stuck with me and has become my guiding principle when solving complex issues. 

Too often we do not understand our own issues and problems, nor listen clearly to what others say.
We don't take the time to fully consider all aspects of problems we face in relationships, business, politics, or scientific issues. As a result we work to correct symptoms without ever facing the root problem. Just as a child finds a hammer and believes everything in the house requires hammering, we find a solution and look for a problem to which it can be applied. For Washington's politicians, their hammer is money. Whatever the problem, send money. In this day and age, nobody fixes things anymore, they throw it away and get a new one. This is true of computers, cell phones,  and relationships. Rather than find out what is wrong and fixing it, we throw it away and get a new one.

If we are to solve problems, we must identify what  went wrong and understand the real problem. Once we are able to define the problem clearly, the solution or solutions often become obvious. Solution are not hard - often the problem itself is so complex. Then we fail to spend the time and energy to get to the root of an issue. As a result we end up with a "D-." on our report card.

The biggest example is seen in bureaucracies. There are some that believe that the solution to every problem in business, healthcare, the economy, and relationships is more government regulation. Regulation is the hammer - the panacea - and everything must be regulated.
Even in our own lives we keep looking around for that magic hammer that will solve all of our problems in our relationships, finances, and careers. So we attend every webinar, read every new book, and look at what worked for someone else and try to apply it to our particular problem without a careful understanding of our individual problem. "How To" books are the largest sellers on Amazon. "How To" videos get the most viewing on YouTube. 

You cannot solve a problem if you do not understand the problem. But if you fully understand it and can clearly state the issues, the solution will usually become obvious. When we truly understand the problem, the solution or solutions become obvious.

Steps to Problem solving:

James 3:17 (NKJV) But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.

1.   Ask the right questions. 

Get at the root cause of the issue. 
One prayer that I have found God answers is, "What am I doing wrong?"

Get beyond the symptoms and find out why the symptoms exist. Symptoms are not the problem, they are the result of the problem. If your knee hurts, don't just take pain meds, determine the source. If your business is failing, identify what may be wrong, products, production, marketing, etc. Then look at where that can be improved. 

My first experience with a business consultant was very early in my career. He came around and asked questions of everyone, including me. Later when we received his report, it was obvious he just regurgitated our answers. The best way to find out what is wrong in any situation is to ask questions.

2.  Consider available solutions

Once the root of the problem is identified, it is time to consider a variety of solutions. Do not just pick up someone else's hammer. Consider even the wildest of ideas. This will help stimulate your creative juices.

3.  Evaluate potential solutions. 

Evaluate the potential solutions based upon James 3:17. Is the potential solution based upon a pure heart? Does it give you a feeling of  peace in your spirit? Are you willing to yield your rights? Will it yield good? Is it non-partial? Is it without hypocrisy?

4  Select the best, cost effective, solution. 

5.  Take Action on the solution

6.  Be flexible. 

If the path you have chosen is not working, you may have missed the root and are treating the symptom. If that is the case go back to step one. Do not just give up and throw in the towel. Solve the problems.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

7 Steps to Gain Authority

 7 Steps to Gaining Authority

Authority is defined as: “the power or right to give orders or make decisions: the power or right to direct or control someone or something.” The source of authority may be internal (residing within), or external (authority vested by an external agency.)

External Authority

As a new president takes authority over the government of the United States, he or she is given great authority by the office. But he or she is also under the authority of the constitution and those who elected him or her. While this authority is external. It comes with the job. It is great but the success of the presidency is determined not by this eternal authority but by internal authority.

A policeman with a badge and uniform has the power and right to direct automobiles and trucks to stop, turn, or proceed. His authority has been vested in him by a governmental agency. His authority is identified by his badge and uniform. An impostor could steal the uniform and badge and go out in the street and direct traffic and the drivers of the vehicles would not know he was an impostor and would probably follow his direction. His authority is in his appearance. The policeman does not have the physical strength to stop a truck coming at him at a high rate of speed, but he is able to stop the truck by the authority vested in him by the government.

In a traditional business organization, there is a hierarchy of authority. The Board of Directors - whose authority is vested in them by the stockholders or owners - has authority over the president, who has authority over vice presidents, etc. There is a hierarchal structure of authority throughout the entire organization.

Similarly, a military officer gives orders to troops who are trained to be obedient and to respond quickly to proper commands. The officer’s authority is vested in higher authority and backed by the government. Uniform insignia designates the rank. Rank determines the level of authority of the officer. The officer, in turn, is also is under authority. The military is a hierarchal organization where orders come down from the top to the lowest echelons and obedience looks up for direction.

There is one major problem with external authority. It can be taken away quickly without any warning. As a result, the external authority must be guarded and protected. When protecting a position, you will inevitably encounter someone who challenges your authority, leading to conflicts. The external authority may lead to compliance from underlings, but it does not always warrant respect.

Internal Authority

Internal authority is based upon character. Organizational psychologist and author of “Give and Take,” Adam Grant, states "there were two ways to gain influence (have authority); dominance or prestige." Internal authority is all about “Prestige.” The internal authority may be difficult to explain but it is one of those things that “we know it when we see it.” Those with internal authority know who they are, why they are where they are, and what must be done. A person develops internal authority by growing in individuality, self-confidence, conviction, integrity, and having a servant attitude.


“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”  R[Ralph Waldo Emerson]

Every individual in the world is unique. Unfortunately - because we have a desire to fit in - we try to hide our uniqueness and become like others around us. We see this in teenagers who dress alike, talk alike, and act alike. There are some who rebel and dress and act differently, but soon the rebels will come together and share their dress and actions as they fit together.

In the business world, there is a tendency to dress, think, and act alike. In many large corporations, you see individuals who dress alike, have similar facial hair and walk with a certain gait. Most of them are inadvertently imitating their immediate boss who in turn is copying the chief executive.
Individuality is important. It is the quality that makes one person or thing different from all others. It is not easy to be different, but you cannot develop internal authority if you are trying to be like someone else. Today we have too many people in politics, business, and the church who are not sure of their own identity, so they put on masks and try to become like the ones they care about, or what they think others want them to be. They do all of this in the hope that they will be accepted.

Individuality requires an understanding of one’s gifts, talents, and purpose. While you can grow in knowledge and ability, the only way you can grow in individuality is by being yourself and not trying to emulate someone else.


Self-confidence is confidence in oneself and in one's powers and abilities. It is not prideful but it is being totally honest about who you are. You know your weakness and limitations as well as your strengths. Self-confident people have a peace about them. There is an internal strength which allows them to handle criticism and failure without reacting in self-pity and defensiveness. Self-confidence allows one to react appropriately to criticism - to be objective, analyze, and accept appropriate criticism.
Anyone who is active bringing in new ideas will be criticized. It is the nature of the game. Self-confidence allows us to look at the criticism objectively, evaluate it to determine the validity, and take action when necessary.


Individuals with internal authority have a conviction regarding what they are doing. By focusing on their purpose, they will not be sidetracked by unimportant issues which could distract and keep them from reaching their goal. Strong leaders are gifted with the ability to see long range goals and not chase down rabbit holes. Focus is derived from a conviction or purpose which evokes passion and a willingness to make sacrifices to achieve that which they seek. Passion is contagious and draws others to the battle. Others catch your passion and are led toward the same goal. People will follow leaders who have a passion about their purpose.
“I just set myself on fire and people come to watch me burn.” [John Wesley]
Each of us has a destiny, or purpose, in life. But we often dilute our efforts by chasing after things we are not called to chase. It is better to be good at a few things than mediocre at many things.


Integrity is measured by what you do when no one else is looking. It is the quality of being honest and fair - the state of being complete or whole. Integrity seems to be lacking in many leaders today. We are witnessing the lack of honesty and fairness by politicians, business executives, religious leaders, and individual citizens in today’s world. Integrity seems to have been lost in this egocentric Post-Modern world.
“Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters.”  [Albert Einstein]
Leaders with integrity will stand out and be followed by others seeking truth. Integrity requires us to speak the truth without exaggeration, follow through when we say we will do something, be careful in money and moral issues, live what we preach, and be a servant to those we lead - willing to sacrifice our own desires to help others.

Servant Attitude

“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”   Mother Teresa
A Servant attitude will always result in internal authority. A servant leader wants to benefit the group and desires to make other people successful and see them grow. It is a way of honoring others. There are too many leaders today that sacrifice the people that they have authority over, to further their own personal agenda.
Ezekiel 34:2 (MSG) "Son of man, prophesy against the shepherd-leaders of Israel. Yes, prophesy! Tell those shepherds, 'God, the Master, says: Doom to you shepherds of Israel, feeding your own mouths! Aren't shepherds supposed to feed sheep?

Increase Your Internal Authority

Internal Authority cannot be taken away. People with internal authority will always rise to the top of an organization. They do not have to be afraid of other people, they can take risks and be innovative, and they end up with external authority given to them. They will be recognized by higher authorities and do not have to rely on the external things to be successful.

Those with authority must be under authority. If they cannot be under authority, they cannot be trusted to be given greater authority. If they can relate well to those over them, they will be able to relate well to those under them.

Internal authority can be increased by following the steps listed below.

1. Know yourself: 

Understand who you are; your abilities, your strengths and weaknesses, and your purpose in life.

2. Eliminate Fear of failure: 

Develop a Godly self-confidence. Baseball player, Sammy Sosa broke the record for strikeouts in a single season.  He hit 62 home runs breaking the record of Babe Ruth, but he struck out more often than he hit a home run.  Most people who have accomplished great things have failed a couple of times.  Good people only condemn others for not trying, not those who try and fail.

3. Eliminate Fear of Rejection: 

Do not be afraid of what others might think. Attempt something great. It is far better to attempt something great and fail than to attempt nothing and succeed. 

4. Accept what you cannot change, be thankful for what you have:

5. Believe in the importance of your purpose:

6. Walk in integrity:

Be honest about your weaknesses and limitations. Be a learner, don’t be afraid to say, I don't know. Change your mind once in a while.   Allow others to change your mind once in a while. Ask for help and advice once in a while. When you are wrong, admit it and repent quickly.

7. Have Faith in the future. Expect success.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Jesus Last Words on the Cross

When someone is about to die or leave us, it is important to hear and understand the words that they leave us with – their last words. When Jesus was on the cross crucified, He gave us seven significant things to take into our heart.


"Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do." Gospel of Luke 23:34
Jesus asks his Father in heaven to forgive the soldiers, who have scourged him, mocked him, tortured him, and - just now - nailed him to the cross. But could this not also apply to his Apostles and companions who have deserted him; to Peter who has denied him three times, to the fickle crowd, who only days before praised him on his entrance to Jerusalem, and then days later chose him over Barabbas to be crucified? Could this not also apply to us, who daily forget him in our lives? Does he react angrily? No, he asks his Father to forgive them, because they are ignorant!
At the height of his physical suffering, his Divine love prevails and He asks His Father to forgive his enemies. Right up to his final hours on earth, Jesus teaches forgiveness. In the Lord’s Prayer, He teaches forgiveness, "Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us" (Matthew 6:12). When asked by Peter, how many times we should forgive someone, Jesus answers, “seventy times seven.” (Matthew 18:21-22).
On Good Friday and throughout the year, we followers of Jesus need to live in forgiveness.


"Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise." Gospel of Luke 23:43
Now it is not just the religious leaders or the soldiers that mock Jesus, but even one of the criminals - a downward progression of mockery - but the criminal on the right speaks up for Jesus, explaining that the two criminals are receiving their just due, and pointing to Jesus, says, "this man has done nothing wrong." He then turns to Jesus and makes a request, "Jesus, remember me when you come in your kingdom" (Luke 23:42). What wonderful faith this repentant sinner had in Jesus. Jesus, ignoring his own suffering, mercifully responds with His second word. The second word again is about forgiveness, but this time it is directed to a sinner.


"Jesus said to his mother: "Woman, this is your son". Then he said to the disciple: "This is your mother." Gospel of John 19:26-27
Jesus and His mother Mary are together again. At the beginning of his ministry at a wedding in Cana, Jesus reacted with His mother. Now at the end of his public ministry, she is at the foot of the Cross. What sorrow must fill her heart, to see her Son mocked, tortured, and now just crucified? Once again, a sword pierces Mary's soul, the sword predicted by Simeon at the Temple (Luke 2:35). There are four at the foot of the cross, Mary his Mother, John, the disciple whom he loved, Mary of Cleopas, his mother's sister, and Mary Magdalene. But again Jesus rises above the occasion. His concerns are for the ones that love him. The good son that He is, is concerned about taking care of his mother.


"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34 [Psalm 22:1]
It was in the ninth hour - after three hours of darkness - Jesus cried out this fourth word. The ninth hour was three in the afternoon in Palestine. One is struck by the anguished tone of this expression compared to the first three words of Jesus. This cry is from the painful heart of the human Jesus who must feel deserted by His Father and the Holy Spirit, not to mention his earthly companions the Apostles. Jesus feels separated from his Father. He is now all alone, and he must face death by himself.  Matthew Henry writes:
“The believer may have tasted some drops of bitterness, but he can only form a very feeble idea of the greatness of Christ's sufferings. Yet, hence he learns something of the Savior’s love to sinners; hence he gets a deeper conviction of the vileness and evil of sin, and of what he owes to Christ, who delivers him from the wrath to come.”
(Matthew Henry Concise Bible Commentary.)


"I thirst" Gospel of John 19:28
The fifth word of Jesus is His only human expression of His physical suffering. Jesus is now in shock. The wounds inflicted upon him in the scourging, the crowning with thorns, and the nailing upon the cross are now taking their toll, especially after losing blood on the three-hour walk through the city of Jerusalem to Golgotha on the Way of the Cross. Jesus was carrying out the commission the Father had assigned to Him. This commission had been prescribed by an Old Testament prophecy. The phrase "I am thirsty" recalls Psalm 69:21 "They put gall in my food and gave me vinegar for my thirst." Jesus' loss of blood, his nervous tension, and his exposure to the weather had generated a raging thirst.


When Jesus had received the wine, he said, "It is finished"; and he bowed his head and handed over the spirit. Gospel of John 19:30
The sixth word is Jesus' recognition that his suffering is over and his task is completed. Jesus was obedient to the Father and gave his love for mankind by redeeming us with His death on the Cross. When Jesus died, He "handed over" the Spirit. Jesus remains in control to the end, and it is He who handed over his Spirit.
During the time of Christ, when a person had been convicted of a crime and sentenced to prison, he was given a piece of paper describing the sentence he was to receive.  This paper was called a certificate of debt. When the sentence was completed, the warden of the prison stamped his paper with the word Tetelestai . Translated into English, this means,It is finished,” the sentence had been paid in full.
It was not a whimper, It was a shout of Victory, "I have completed the will of my Father, I have satisfied the demands of his justice, I have accomplished all that was written in the prophets, and suffered at the hands of my enemies; now the way to the holy of holies is made open through my blood."  The work of man’s redemption and salvation is now completed; a fatal blow has been given to the power of Satan, a fountain of grace opened that shall flow forever, a foundation of peace and happiness is laid that shall never fail.


Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit": Gospel of Luke 23:46

Just before He dies Jesus quotes Psalm 31:5 - "Into thy hands, I commend my spirit; thou hast redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God." The innocent Lamb had been slain for our sins so that we might be forgiven. Jesus fulfills His mission, and as He says so clearly in John's Gospel, He can now return: "I came from the Father and have come into the world; again, I am leaving the world and going to the Father" (John 16:28). Jesus practiced what He preached: "Greater love has no man than this that a man lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13).

Thursday, March 16, 2017

St Patrick: The Rest of the Story

Stories of St Patrick abound to this day regarding getting rid of snakes in Ireland and all kinds of wives tales. But the real story of St. Patrick was even more miraculous. He was born in England. At sixteen, he was captured and carried off as a slave to Ireland. Patrick worked as a herdsman, remaining a captive for six years. He writes that his faith grew in captivity and that he prayed daily. After six years he heard a voice telling him that he would soon go home and that his ship was ready. Fleeing his master, he traveled to a port, two hundred miles away - he says
 - where he found a ship. After various adventures, he returned home to his family, now in his early twenties.
Patrick recounts that he had a vision a few years after returning home:
"I saw a man coming, as it were from Ireland. His name was Victoricus, and he carried many letters, and he gave me one of them. I read the heading: 'The Voice of the Irish'. As I began the letter, I imagined in that moment that I heard the voice of those very people who were near the wood of Foclut, which is beside the western sea—and they cried out, as with one voice: 'We appeal to you, holy servant boy, to come and walk among us.'"
He writes that he "baptized thousands of people". He ordained priests to lead the new Christian communities. He converted wealthy women, some of whom became nuns in the face of family opposition. He also dealt with the sons of kings, converting them too. Patrick's position as a foreigner in Ireland was not an easy one. His refusal to accept gifts from kings placed him outside the normal ties of kinship, and affinity. Legally he was without protection. He says that he was on one occasion beaten, robbed of all he had, and put in chains, perhaps awaiting execution.
Patrick died in AD 461 on March 17. As a result of his obedience to God Ireland became a Christian nation.
We often sing “Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me, melt me, mold me, use me.” But do we really mean it. Do we allow God to melt us if it requires that we become humble as a slave? Do we allow Him to mold us to become a different person so that He can use us?
While Patrick was a slave, his faith grew, God melted him and molded him in the crucible of slavery until he was ready to be used.
God is looking for ordinary men and women who are willing to be melted, molded, and used for building His kingdom.
Are you willing?

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

If You’re so Damn Smart, Why aren’t You Rich and Famous?

George was the smartest kid in senior high. There wasn’t a test or class he didn’t ace. It wasn’t just that he was intelligent, he was conscientious and studied hard. He ended his senior year with the record - which still stands - of the highest grade-point average ever obtained. He was class valedictorian with scholarship offers from several prestigious universities. Which scholarship he would accept and what wonderful things he would accomplish after college were the subjects of discussion in the teacher’s lounge and students locker rooms. Everyone was shocked when George announced that he was not going to college and would take over his family’s small farm. He would farm there for the rest of his life. Why did George choose to become a farmer, and run a modest family farm over assured financial security and probable national recognition?

George was intelligent but not nearly as mentally gifted as Mark. Mark graduated  “Summa cum laude” from one of those prestigious universities. He was a mathematical genius and was hired into the military intelligence community as an analyst specializing in encryption and decryption. Mark was flawed, he was continually getting into financial because of his inability to manage his life and his checkbook.

Mark and George are real people and their stories are true as I remember them. Only their names have been changed to protect their identity. Two stories of smart people who never became rich or famous but certainly could have. George had other interests. Fame and fortune did not motivate him. Mark had a desire for fame and fortune but was not motivated to discipline himself to achieve what he was capable of achieving.

We have come to believe that fame and fortune are the principle goals of life, especially here in America where everyone has the freedom to achieve the “American Dream.” As a result leaders - in business, the armed services, and most other organizations - tend to use the carrot of fame and/or fortune as the primary motivator in hiring and promoting personnel. As I was progressing through the ranks of corporate business, I was often offered a title in lieu of salary increase. Fame motivated me as I climbed the corporate ladder. When I reached the top, I found that my ladder was positioned on the wrong building.

Unfortunately, fame and fortune are poor motivators for much of today’s workforce. Motivation has been studied by social and educational psychologists since the early 1970s. Research has found that intrinsic motivation is usually associated with high educational achievement and enjoyment by students. People are likely to be intrinsically motivated if they attribute their personal growth to internal factors that they can control, they believe they can be effective in reaching desired goals, and they are interested in mastering a task. This explains the “Starving Artist” or the writer that continues to write despite having no book sales.

Author, Daniel Pink, in his book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us  describes how traditional forms of motivation may, in some cases, decrease performance. He cites studies conducted with college students in the United States. The researchers found that as long as the task required only mechanical or routine performance, extrinsic rewards worked well. Higher pay given for higher performance yielded better performance. Reward and punishment motivated the people when they were required to just follow the rules. However, when the task became more complicated and required even a small bit of conceptual or creative thinking, extrinsic rewards failed to motivate and even reduced levels of performance. Higher pay for solving puzzles, for creative thinking, and for more complicated tasks had a negative effect on performance. There was a concern that American college students were not representative of a complete society. So the researchers moved their testing to Madurai, India. The villagers were given similar tests and the results were consistent despite the obvious cultural differences.

According to Pink, there are three major intrinsic factors which have the power to motivate individuals engaged in other than routine tasks; autonomy, mastery, and purpose.


 The leader must accept the fact that someone else might do the same task differently.  If the organization were to succeed, the employees must be free to perform their tasks with a certain amount of autonomy. They needed to be free to make mistakes and learn from their mistakes. The leader is still be required to guide and teach, but not command and control. Creativity and motivation flow like a river. The leader can provide levees to channel the water but should not be a dam which stops the flow. But what happens if the job is really boring? How do we motivate someone? Pink suggests three methods:

  1. Offer a rationale for why the task is necessary. A job that’s not inherently interesting can become more meaningful, and therefore more engaging, if it’s part of a larger purpose.  
  2. Acknowledge that the task is boring. This is an act of empathy, of course. 
  3. Allow people to complete the task their own way. Think autonomy, not control. State the outcome you need, instead of specifying precisely the way to achieve reach it.

In today’s Post-Modern society, autonomy is a strong motivator. People want to feel they have ownership and control over their lives. They want to control their own destiny. They are less likely to accept authoritarian leadership. But personal autonomy as a motivator is not new. Each of us has a desire to be self-directed. Traditional management techniques demand compliance. But if you want engagement, self-direction is a better motivator.

In his 1985 book,” Tillapaugh, Frank R. Unleashing the Church, getting people out of the fortress into ministry, Regal Books, 1982, Ventura, CA  author and ministry leader Frank R. Tillapaugh, describes how his church grew to provide a powerful outreach to his community. When someone came to him with a concern for a certain people group or community, they would often say, “Someone ought to do something.” Tillapaugh would then encourage the person with the concern to research what was needed, what was currently available, and figure out what could be done in the future to provide help. Tillapaugh provided resources and advice, but he released them to start and lead a new program.  He provided resources and guidance but gave them complete autonomy. While some of these outreaches failed, many more became successful and expanded the impact of the ministry in the community.


In the fifth grade, Rhonda was an average student, working hard in school. Like most pre-teens it was difficult every morning to get her up and off to school. Then one day she came home and announced she wanted to play the flute in the school band. Up until then she had no musical ambitions other than dancing classes. As she continued her flute lessons, her whole attitude toward school changed. Now she was up early and in a hurry to get off to school. She enjoyed being in the band and growing in her musical abilities. One summer she attended band camp and continued to master her music. Mastery of her instrument and music was the motivator that gave her a new perspective about school.
Rita dreamed of becoming an oil painter but lacked the confidence to pursue the art. An ad in the local newspaper for a class in oil painting caught her eye. It read, “NO Experience Necessary.” For the next several years she was motivated by the challenge to master the art of painting. On each class day, there was hardly anything that could stop her from getting to class. Today, her oil paintings are displayed in private collections throughout the world. She has her own studio and teaches aspiring artists. As she teaches, Rita’s mastery continues to grow. She continues to be motivated as she continues toward mastery.

There are thousands of amateur musicians who practice daily and sometimes play gigs on weekends. Why do they do it? It does not support them. They do it because they enjoy playing and face the continual challenge of mastering their art. It has been said that a musician is someone that takes a $3,000 instrument, puts it in a $1,000 car and drives to a gig where they earns $30.
Mastery is the urge to improve ourselves. It does not matter whether it is playing an instrument, teaching a class, or digging a ditch. Human beings have this deep-seated desire to master something. Motivation to work harder comes from the desire to become excellent at something.


There was once a man I knew who dug ditches for a living. There were some who looked down on him because of his job and the dirt that clung to his cloths after a day in toiling in mud. But I admired him because he sought excellence in digging ditches. He knew the importance of each ditch that he dug. His ditches carried away rain water saving communities from flooding. His ditches provided sanitary removal of human waste which prevented disease and epidemics. His ditches were used to provide fresh water to houses all over town. His task as a ditch digger had more significance than that of many of his critics.

In an organization, there are many levels of workers from the top leader to the person that cleans the toilets. Each one can be motivated if they feel their particular job is important.  Leaders must let everyone know how important their particular job will be to the success of the organization. Realizing the significance of one’s position will motivate each one to do their very best in each situation.
But, how does the president of a manufacturing company convince an assembly line worker that his role is significant? How does the chairman of the board of a software company convince the janitor that his job is significant?
There are three primary steps that will convince people that their position and task has significance:
  1. The leaders themselves must be convinced that their organization has a significant role to fulfill in society. They must understand that it is not about making a profit; it is about providing a product or a service which is significant and meaningful to the world outside of the organization.
  2. Leaders at every level must be convinced of the significance of their own particular role in the organization.
  3. When new employees are hired or new members join, they must be convinced of the importance of organization’s products and services, and the importance of their particular role to which they will be assigned. Each one must be convinced to seek excellence in performing his or her function. 
If the top managers do not feel the significance of their organization, its products, and services, they should not be filling these positions. If they are just in it for the prestige, money, or power, they will be ineffective in truly leading the organization. When middle managers, production line workers, and janitors detect the insincerity of the top managers, they will not give their best efforts.

Bessie, at age seventy-five, was one of the happiest people alive. Each morning she opened her eyes and thanked God for another day. When you met her on the street she seemed to bubble with joy and excitement. It seemed totally out of place for someone dying of an incurable disease. She had accepted her condition and knew it was only a matter of time when her eyes would be closed forever. She took radiation and Chemo-Therapy treatments regularly leaving her tired and keeping her from even simple physical tasks. One morning after her treatment at the local hospital, Bessie came into my office and literally flopped into the visitor’s chair. There was something different in her eyes today. This was the first time I had ever seen her sad. She seemed almost depressed. My mind began to race with thoughts of bad news from her doctors.

Heaving a deep sigh of resignation, Bessie was very subdued as she spoke, “I have just come from the cancer ward. There are so many patients and families there that are confused, worried, and desperate. It is so sad. My heart is breaking for them and I don’t know what I can do about it. I feel the need to pray for them, cheer them up, and minister to their families. But I don’t know how or what to do.”

 After considering her concern, I gave her an assignment, “Bessie, the first thing you need is the permission from the hospital. They have strict rules about who can approach patients in treatment rooms. They have had some bad experiences with some well-meaning people in the past. I’ll call the Director of Patient Services and make an appointment for you. She is the only one with the authority to give you permission. Then explain to her what you want to do.”

A couple of days later Bessie burst into my office with a big grin on her face. “They told me I could do it.” She paused and looked confused, “But, what do I do now? Where do I start?”
We discussed ways to approach the patients and decided to just follow the leading of the Spirit.
After two years of ministry to cancer patients and their families Bessie succumbed to her own cancer leaving behind a legacy of, cancer survivors, thankful families, amazed doctors and nurses, and a treatment room that had been transformed from a dark and deathly cell into a place of hope, peace, and thanksgiving even in the midst of sorrow and uncertainty.
Bessie, at age seventy-five, found significance.

What motivates you? Share in the comments section.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Is It Time For a New Approach?

Confusion is fine. Chaos is Good. Uncertainty is a positive sign. It is okay to have questions. The problem is that so many of our solutions in life have more basis in tradition and past revelation than they do in solving today's problems. A few years back we were preparing for a pot-luck dinner at church. Not knowing any better, I suggested that the food tables could be moved out from the wall in order to have two lines - one on each side of the table. 

The sweet old lady in charge looked at me in utter horror, "We have never done it that way, but I guess it would be alright."

Organizations often have similar issues which eventually destroy their effectiveness.

The tribal wisdom of the Dakota Indians - passed on from generation to generation - states, "When you discover that you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount."

Unfortunately, in today's business, governmental, religious and academic bureaucracies a whole range of far more advanced strategies are often employed.

These include:

1. Buying a stronger whip.
2. Changing riders.
3. Beating the horse.
4. Appointing a committee to study the horses' motivation.
5. Visiting other sites to see how others ride dead horses.
6. Lowering the standards so that dead horses can be included.
7. Re-classifying the dead horse as “living impaired”.
8. Hiring outside contractors to ride the dead horse.
9. Harnessing several dead horses together to increase the speed.
10. Attempting to mount multiple dead horses in hopes that one of them will spring to life.
11. Providing additional funding and/or training to increase the dead horse’s performance.
12. Doing a productivity study to see if lighter riders would improve the dead horse’s performance.
13. Declaring that as the dead horse does not have to be fed, it is less costly, carries lower overhead, and therefore contributes substantially more to the bottom line of the economy than do some other horses.
14. Rewriting job requirements to allow dead horses to be used.
15. Promoting the dead horse to a supervisory position.

Check out "Disorganize or Bust"

Bill Johnson