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Superhero or Villain

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Superheroes and villains captivate our attention from a young age. It really doesn’t matter whether you are boy or a girl, we fall in love with the princess being saved by the prince or Gotham being saved by Batman. Batman was my superhero of choice when I was younger. I grew up during the action series in which Adam West played Batman with all of the “BAM”, “POW” and “OUCH” graphics. It came on at Bat time on the Bat channel. No one ever died and the same villains continued to appear with a new scheme to harm the superhero and trouble the city.

Over time it seems these hero and villain stories have grown more sinister, dark and evil, yet the same characteristics continue to appear. The villains almost never die because there seems to be this line of morality, or good, that if the heroes cross it, they are in danger of becoming a villain themselves. When you examine them closely, there are very few things that separate the heroes and villains. They have many of the same qualities and characteristics and sometimes they have been both a hero and a villain. There is a constant temptation to resort to tactics less than admirable. Usually the villain knows he cannot kill the hero, but he never stops trying to deter, detract and undermine the good they are doing. So we continue to get superhero comics, books, cartoons and movies with the same heroes and villains with different tactics but the same storyline: the hero prevails.

In almost all religions there is some type of similar storyline. The power that leads us to do good and a force that wants to keep us from those things. In the Christian faith we identify these as Jesus Christ and satan. Both have other names they are known by such as Savior or Son of God for Jesus and the devil or the evil one for satan. Christ being the hero and satan being the villain. They have certain qualities that are similar such as place of origin, power, influence, followers and passion. However, there are also some distinct differences. Jesus would describe the plot of the story like this, “The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life” (John‬ ‭10:10‬ ‭NLT‬‬). Though they both may have passion, their purposes are diametrically opposed. Satan desires to devour while Jesus desires to deliver.

One of the things that each of us needs to understand is how each of these purposes play out in our own lives. What influence does Jesus Christ have and what influence does satan have over the things we do and the choices we make? Evil shows up in our lives in the form of many different villains. Their purpose is to distract us from the things Christ desires for our lives even though they cannot destroy us. Distraction and delay are the tactics that are most successful in wavering our attention from the good we are to be accomplishing in this world. As Christians, the hope that we have is that we do not have to succumb to those forces.

Easter is the celebration of Jesus Christ victoriously rising from the grave to overcome death and sin. Though the villains still press and tempt us, the hero is on our side. We are capable through Jesus Christ of overcoming every villain that we face. It is recorded in 1 John 4:4 (NLT) “But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world.” We have already won. Christ in us is greater than any villain that comes against us. We must be diligent not to fall prey to the tactics of evil, but to rely on the power of Christ residing in us. The hero always wins. The same is true for everyone who is a child of God. We are victorious. We are the heroes that overcome!

I am beginning a brand new 10 week series Easter Sunday called “Heroes and Villains”. We will look at what it means to be an overcomer through Christ, the weapons and tools that are available to us, and the tactics and weapons the enemy uses to bring us down. I hope that you will join us. If you live in northeastern North Carolina, we have physical campuses that meet each Sunday in Edenton, Windsor and Columbia. No matter where you live, you can join us live online each week at www.live.visitopendoor.com and be a part of “Heroes and Villains”.

4 Benefits of Being Productive

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Sometimes our culture takes a narrow view of productivity. We think of productivity in terms of a job or work and then we equate work to earning money. The reality is that all productivity is not “job” based nor is it always an exchange for money. One of the clearest examples of this would be a stay-at-home parent. Most stay-at-home parents do not exchange their efforts for money, but that does not mean they are not being productive or that what they are doing does not have value. In reality, they are creating long lasting value, more precious than money.

 

Though money is a tool that is often necessary for us to survive, there are other benefits to living a productive life. The Apostle Paul wrote a letter to the church at Thessalonica that addressed this issue and he offered some reasons why being productive was important. He said:

 

“And now, dear brothers and sisters, we give you this command in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ: Stay away from all believers who live idle lives and don’t follow the tradition they received from us. For you know that you ought to imitate us. We were not idle when we were with you. We never accepted food from anyone without paying for it. We worked hard day and night so we would not be a burden to any of you. We certainly had the right to ask you to feed us, but we wanted to give you an example to follow. Even while we were with you, we gave you this command: “Those unwilling to work will not get to eat.” Yet we hear that some of you are living idle lives, refusing to work and meddling in other people’s business. We command such people and urge them in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and work to earn their own living. As for the rest of you, dear brothers and sisters, never get tired of doing good.” ‭‭2 Thessalonians‬ ‭3:6-13‬ ‭NLT‬‬

 

Part of what he had to say was addressing those that were not producing and the consequences of that, but he also was reminding them of the value of working or being productive. There are at least four reasons Paul gives why being productive is important.

 

You help others

Paul says that they worked hard and paid for their own food so they were not a burden to the others. He understood that if they did not have another person to feed, they would be able to better care for their own needs. Each of us understands the value of being in a situation where everyone contributes what they are able to contribute. When that happens, the burden is lightened for everyone else. When you are productive, it not only benefits you, it also benefits others because it lightens their load.

 

It sets an example

Paul said they worked hard and provided for themselves to set an example for others to follow. He knew that other people would use his life as a pattern and he wanted to give them a good pattern to follow. Each of us are setting an example with the lives that we live. People are determining their work habits and productivity levels based on what they see in us. We have influence on our friends and co-workers, but we especially have influence on our families. Our children are developing concepts of productivity based on what they see modeled before them. Being productive sets an example for them to follow.

 

It provides for others

Whether your area of work includes an exchange for money or not, your productivity provides for others. Working provides food and shelter for you and your family. Parenting provides care for your children. Paying taxes provides schools for others to have an opportunity to be educated. Productivity produces things that provide for yourself and others. Being productive may produce money, but it also produces other things like a strong family unit. Productivity brings provision.

 

It is good

It appears that some of the people were discouraged because others were not being productive. Paul finishes his instructions by telling those doing good to not be discouraged by doing good. Don’t allow those who are unwilling to keep you from being willing. We cannot correct the poor choices of others. What we can do is continue making good choices in spite of the choices of others. We cannot allow the poor choices of some to cause us to make poor choices as well. Being productive is good.

 

There are times when each of us faces discouragement and frustration and we may question whether what we are doing even matters. Being productive always matters. You are making a difference. Maybe you have experienced some other benefits of being productive. Feel free to share those in the comments so that others can be encouraged. Never get tired of doing good.

My Personal Socio-Economic Experiment

Man Receiving Dollars From Another Man As Payment For A Sale
There has been much written and said concerning the minimum wage in the United States and what is the minimum amount that it takes to live. When I took my first job in 1983 the minimum wage was $3.35. It was at Kinney Shoes where I also had the opportunity to earn commission on top of my minimum pay. Commissions helped me appreciate my own ability to earn more money in spite of the minimum wage I was guaranteed. In fact, I only worked one other job outside of pastoring in which I could not earn commissions because I understood the value of that in earning potential.

As a business owner, I have always appreciated my employees and the stability they brought to my company. I have not always been able to reward them the way I desired, but knew that the business was very dependent on them in order to be successful. I have always tried to be flexible when they needed to be off or leave early and I have tried to give bonuses when possible to increase their earnings. Though I was aware of my own personal financial needs, I did not always give a lot of thought to how wages affected their quality of life. With all of the recent discussions about the subject it has given me cause to think about how much it actually takes to live.

Much of the discussion has centered around a $15.00 per hour minimum wage. The current Federal Minimum wage is $7.25 per hour and has not changed since 2009. There is quite a bit of debate about what is a fair wage and what is sustainable for businesses. As with most issues, everyone has their own statistics and “proof” to make their point valid. As both a business owner and a pastor, I have seen the value in both sides of the argument. I have asked myself questions like:

Can the business sustain every employee making those wages?
Will those wages improve employee moral?
Will it create a sense of entitlement?
Will productivity increase?

I could spend months listening to arguments and seeing examples of how it succeeded or failed in different places. I could have taken a position based on my own research and thought processes, most of which would have been skewed by my own prejudices. So I decided to take a different course of action. I chose to give each of my full time employees at our business a minimum of $15.00 per hour. I explained to them what I was doing and explained that it may not be permanent, but that it would at least be the first six months of 2016. I’m going to do my own experiment of how that wage affects both my business and my employees.

I will offer updates in my blog over the following months to let you know how things are going and what if any difference I have noticed. I will report the benefits and the struggles of everyone involved. If this has been a debate that interests you, then my business will be your guinea pig or experiment laboratory. I am excited and nervous at the same time. Hopefully we can all learn something that will help us improve.

3 Positive Things Conflict Creates

My Or Your Way Signpost Shows Conflict Or Disagreement

All close relationships experience points of tension over time. Any time you put two people together that have different personalities, interests, gifts, backgrounds or experiences, you have a recipe for conflict. Because of that, every family unit experiences conflict at some point. Often it is the same issues that consistently create conflict. Husbands and wives experience it. Parents and children deal with it. We sometimes have conflict with siblings, in-laws, and other members of our family. Conflict is often viewed as bad but usually it is because of the way we handle it, not because of the subject matter. If we understand some of the benefits of conflict, we can improve our approach and our view of it. I have noticed three benefits to conflict.

 

It Identifies The Most Important Issues

Conflict often brings to the forefront the issues and thoughts that are most important to other people. In the context of marriage, conflict allows us to understand what is most on the mind of our spouse. Andy Stanley says there are two types of tension: tensions to solve and tensions to manage. Some issues are meant to be solved. If tension arises that should be solved, then our responsibility is to deal with it. Other tensions are meant to be managed. For example, there is often the tension in the home of work/home life balance. This is probably not an issue that can be solved, but it does need to be managed. When it consistently comes up, it may mean that we are not managing that tension properly. When conflict arises, take a moment to understand that this issue is important to the other person.

 

It Brings Clarity

Some of my most clarifying moments have come during or after conflict. The conflict brought to the surface thoughts, ideas, problems and issues that I could not see or had not seen previously. The conflict allowed me to get clarity in the situation that I would not have been able to get otherwise. Conflict will often force you to set aside all of the things that are unnecessary to the decision or situation which allows you to see more clearly the direction that needs to be taken. Allow conflict to clarify your current situation.

 

It Teaches

Sometimes I hear people say that they said things in anger that they did not mean. The reality though is that it cannot come out of us unless it is already inside of us. Conflict will often reveal flaws or shortcomings in our own lives with which we need to solve or settle. I have often walked away from conflict realizing there were things in me that needed more attention than the issue that was causing conflict. When I use conflict as an opportunity to learn and I reflect on my own approach to conflict, it teaches me important lessons that I need to know that extend well beyond the issue. Never miss an opportunity to be taught when there is conflict.

 

Conflict is going to be present. It is actually necessary. Don’t always view conflict as bad or destructive. It does not have to be. There are benefits to conflict. Maybe you have some other benefits you can offer in the comments below.

3 Problems With Comparison

Elegant business partners holding blank papers on green background

 

February is a month when couples share their love for one another and focus is often placed on a relationship that at other times has been ignored. Over the next few weeks at Open Door Church we are delivering a series entitled “Marriage, Money & Making Babies” where we are looking at relationship issues in our marriage, finances and parenting. We are also offering some classes on Wednesday that will deal with specific words that affect those areas. Our first word is “comparison”. Comparison is a word that affects our marriage, our finances and our parenting. Though there are times when comparison can assist us in evaluating where we need to improve or make changes, there are problems with comparison that will often create unexpected difficulties in our own life. Here are three problems with comparison that I have identified.

 

We Rarely Have All of the Information

We see things with our eyes but we do not always understand what we are seeing. The main reason is because we do not have all of the information. A nice car or a nice house does not always equal a nice life. Sometimes people have or do certain things in order to make up for deficiencies in others areas of their life. We see our co-worker get flowers from her husband and immediately think how sweet and thoughtful he must be. Little do we know that he may by trying to make up for some indiscretion prior to that event. We make judgments based on what our eyes see or ears here, but rarely are we fully informed to make the same application in our lives. If we had to choose between having a spouse we could trust or one that sent flowers, we would choose trust every time. The problem comes when the only information we have is the flowers.

 

Relationships are complicated. Whether it is the relationship with our spouse, our children or our money, we cannot judge what we have based on what we see others have. How you approach each of those issues is influenced by tons of information. The same is true of the person or people to whom you compare yourself. The problem is that you only have the information that influences your choices or decisions, you do not have their information. You only have the outcome. If you knew all of the facts, you may possibly make different choices than they did in the same situation. Use your own information to make your best decisions.

 

We Do Not Know The Cost

There is a cost to everything in life. To get one thing we have to give up something else. For example we can go to a restaurant for a meal but there is a cost. Sometimes we do not even calculate all of the costs. There is a cost to get to the restaurant. There is time involved that we have to pay. Then there is the cost of the meal. It is not always as simple as an exchange of money. Everything in life comes with a cost. When we compare our lives, possessions, parenting or marriages to others, we often do it not knowing the full cost the other people had to pay to get what they have. What did they have to sacrifice to get what they have? One of the most common areas of comparison is in the area of finances or more specifically possessions.

 

For example, consider the purchase of a new house. We see someone in our circle of friends get a new house and suddenly we have a desire for one. We only see the surface cost or the purchase price of the house. But there are probably some additional costs of which we may not be aware. We do not know how much extra work they had to do to earn the money for the house or have to continue to do in order to make the monthly mortgage. They may have had to work 10 additional hours of overtime per week. You may think you are capable of that, but that extra 10 hours costs something as well. It is time not spent with your spouse. It is an extra toll on your health and body. It is a missed school program or ball game for your child. All of those things play into the cost of something. Sometimes we gain the house, but lose significant closeness with our spouse or children, which is a much higher cost than making a house payment. Everything in life comes with a cost. When we make comparisons we are often at a disadvantage because we do not know the full costs of what others have.

 

We Are Often Disappointed

When we compare ourselves with others and the things that they have and we set out to get what others have or become what others are, we set ourselves up for disappointment. One of the biggest reasons we are disappointed is because we are each created with unique gifts, talents and purpose. When we try to live out what God has gifted others to do, we often find emptiness because it is not what we were designed to do. God created you to be you. You are the most qualified, in fact the only qualified, person to live out what God has for you. Anytime you attempt to be something that God did not design you to be, you feel inadequate and unfulfilled. Trying to live out the dreams of other people is a road that rarely ends in a place where you are satisfied.

 

Comparison is dangerous. Comparison leads to dissatisfaction. It can offer guidance at times to improve, but more often it leads to jealousy and unrest because we are attempting things we were never meant to do or have. Live the life you were designed to live. It is the most fulfilling and rewarding thing that you can do.

4 Qualifications for National Leaders

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The book of Exodus reveals to us the beginning stages of the nation of Israel. Until they entered Egypt, they were basically a single family unit. After years in slavery, their numbers had grown to what some people estimate to be over 1 million Israelites that left Egypt for Canaan. Moses was the leader of this group of people and began to reach a point of being overwhelmed. His father-in-law recognizes the struggle that Moses is having and offers him some advice on how to add other leaders to share the burden for this new nation. Initially they would probably be called judges, but they were there to make decisions and settle disputes. The advice that Jethro offered to Moses included some qualifications for the people that he was to choose. In Exodus 18:21 it is recorded But select from all the people some capable, honest men who fear God and hate bribes. Appoint them as leaders over groups of one thousand, one hundred, fifty, and ten. There are four specific requirements for these leaders: capable, honest, God-fearing, and hating bribes. Each of these qualifications seem basic to any leadership position that we may need to fill. Let’s take a look at how we may be able to apply these to your own life.

 

Capable

For any leadership position, skills are important. It is very difficult to have influence in situations you know nothing about. It is clear that we should be concerned about the qualifications of leaders, especially leaders of a nation. They must have skills to deal with the complex and difficult issues that arise. These skills may not always be gained in the same fashion. Often we have looked for people with certain military or political experience. Both of these can be beneficial, but may not be necessary. However, it is critical that they have developed certain skills for the job or position they are seeking.

 

Honest

There are many stereotypical jokes about political leaders that could be made here. It is unfortunate that politicians are often viewed as dishonest. Some of this is because they cannot always provide what they said they would provide due to their lack of consideration of the actual reach and scope of their power. Other times it is because their lives are so public that if they decide to change their position on an issue (as all of us do from time to time), it is viewed as a lack of integrity rather than a better understanding of a subject. Then unfortunately, there are other times when they are just truly dishonest. In any case, honesty and integrity should be critical components of the people we choose to lead us. You do not have to agree on issues to have integrity. But to lead effectively and for the benefit of the people, you must have strong character.

 

God-fearing

Depending on your stance where faith or Christianity is concerned, this may or may not be on your list. It is important to me. God-fearing does not always mean that someone believes like I believe, but it does mean that they have an understanding of life and a purpose that is bigger than themselves. It is clear in the Bible that God was able to use men that did not recognize him, at least in the beginning. Cyrus, Artaxerxes and even Herod were men that God used to accomplish his work even though they never believed or feared Him. However, I do believe the greatest good is accomplished when men fear God and work to accomplish the greater good.

 

Hate Bribes

Our country has laws that govern the exchange of bribes for favors. It has never stopped them from exchanging hands and truthfully, many leaders find other ways to exchange favors or decisions without the direct exchange of money. Hating a bribe does not just mean that you will not take money for a specific vote. I believe the hating of bribes indicates you feel so strongly about doing what is right and best that there is no amount of favor or exchange, ever how they may appear, that would deter you from doing what needs to be done. This can often be difficult.  I am convinced however, that if our leaders would do what was best and right, regardless of the cost to them personally, our country would be better for it. Leadership is about sacrifice.

 

It is possible you have some things that you would add to this list. It is clear that Israel started out with leaders that held these as important. As you consider over the next weeks and months who you will choose to lead our nation, take these qualifications into account and see how your candidate measures up.

3 Strengtheners To Help Take That First Step

dark forest and a road

In 1960 the first automatic door was installed. It operated with a mat actuator. When you stepped on the mat, the door automatically opened for you. I can recall most automatic doors working only with mat actuators. Most automatic doors today work with some sort of movement sensor that detects when you are close to the door. With either type of sensor, it requires you to take a step close to the door for the door to open. The door will open for us provided we are willing to take the step toward it. The door opening is dependent on our willingness to step.

How often do we see this same principle play out in other areas of our lives? Opportunities that will open themselves to us provided we are willing to take the initial step. With an automatic door, there have been so many people who have tried it before you and you have so many other previous experiences with them that taking that first step is easy. It is a tested experienced that usually has little risk. But many of the opportunities that we are faced with in our lives carry great amounts of uncertainty and some have not been tried enough times to give us the assurance that it will work.

We see this uncertainty play out in many areas of our lives. It can be seen in a first date, a new job, a new idea or a new business venture. It may be a part of a change we need to make in our life or learning a new skill or moving away to college. Every opportunity we have not tried comes with uncertainty and risk. If we are not careful, we will pass on great opportunities out of fear. If we would just take that first step, we may realize that it is easier than we expected. Just as the automatic door only opens when you step toward it, opportunities are only seized if we are willing to take the first step toward them. Here are three things that can assist all of us in taking that first step toward opportunity.

Educate Yourself
One of the best ways to help you take the first step to any opportunity is to educate yourself about the opportunity or situation. Learning more about any opportunity is wise. It will give you insight into some of the risks you’re taking and possibly reveal additional rewards that may be available. There is virtually nothing we cannot learn more about with the availability of information on the Internet. Much of it is free, but more is available for a small investment. There are YouTube videos, podcasts, college level courses, blogs and more on just about any subject you can imagine. There is no excuse for not being educated about something that we are wanting to do or accomplish.

Find Others With Experience
It is possible that you are the pioneer in an area, but most of the time we are just venturing into territory that is new to us. If you are a pioneer in an area, you can still glean information from related situations and people who can offer feedback and wisdom. If it is just a new venture for you, then you should seek out wisdom from people who have already achieved some measure of success or who are a few steps ahead of you in the process. Get feedback and advice from them. Read books from people who have traveled the journey that you are getting ready to take. It is likely that you already have people in your circle that can be of great assistance. We have to get over our fear of rejection. I have found that people are usually willing to assist if they possibly can, especially when the investment they are making into you is wisdom.

Failure Is Rarely Final
Some people would say that failure is not final. Although, there are a few occasions where failure could be the end, it is a rare circumstance. We should adjust our view of failure. Every time something doesn’t work, it is a learning experience. We gain knowledge that we would not have otherwise. The only people who have never failed at something are the people who have never tried anything. Every success is littered with failures and problems, but they became invaluable in the process of achieving the greater success. Failures and mistakes should be used as steps to making the end greater and stronger than it would have been without them. Don’t be ashamed about failure unless you chose not to learn from it.

Maybe you have an initial step that you need to take today. It could be in a business, an investment, a relationship or some other area of your life. You will probably be surprised at what doors will open for you if you will have the courage to walk toward them.

Honoring and Understanding Your Spouse

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There are many verses in the Bible that single out a man or a woman, husband or a wife, but often these verses can be applied to both sexes or both spouses. This would be true of a verse that one of Jesus’ disciples Peter would pen when he wrote a letter that is identified by his name in the Bible. It says:

7 In the same way, you husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God’s gift of new life. Treat her as you should so your prayers will not be hindered. 1 Peter 3:7 NLT

Honor and understanding. If we take a few minutes and apply this to both spouses, what can we learn from that? How do both of these words affect our marriage? What does it mean to honor or understand one another?

The word honor implies a good name or public esteem. It lends itself to our reputation. It also means that we offer respect. In the context of marriage it is important for both of us to protect the other’s good name and reputation. Not only with our own actions, but also in the context of how we portray their own flaws, failures and shortcomings to others. We must guard their reputation and not harm them by tearing them down to others, no matter how hurt or angry we may be. But we should also honor and respect them by making sure they are first in our human relationships. When in public, we should acknowledge them when they speak and respect them in front of others. It should be clear to everyone how important our spouse is to us. Often we are unaware of how we disrespect or fail to show honor to our spouse.

To understand our spouse means that we have a mental grasp of them or we comprehend them. Understanding your spouse requires you to be intentional. It is diligently seeking to learn the other person for mutual benefit. We can serve someone’s needs much better when we have attempted to understand them. Often we keep offering things they do not want or need and we cannot understand why they do not respond to us the way we want them to. It is because we have not yet understood them; we have not learned their “why”. Why they were created. Why they act like they act or want what they want. It is to put ourselves in their shoes so that we can better appreciate them as a person and the needs they have. When we understand our spouse, we will be better suited to meet their needs.

Maybe an exercise you can do today would be to talk to your spouse and ask them how you could honor them better. Are there times they feel disrespected? Ask your spouse how they feel misunderstood. Ask them what things you keep offering them or ways you continue to approach them that is not appealing to them. Ask them for a single place they wish you would honor or understand them more. Take turns with this. Then commit yourself to improving. As we learn to honor and understand one another, our marriages will grow and we will be more fulfilled.

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About Me

I currently serve as Lead Pastor at Open Door Church and I am a certified trainer & coach with the John Maxwell Team. I am also an Associate Trainer with EQUIP training leaders around the world. I currently own two businesses related to the foodservice equipment industry. I am a certified speaker, teacher and coach with the John Maxwell Team. I can offer you workshops, seminars, keynote speaking, and coaching, aiding your personal and professional growth through study and practical application of John’s proven leadership methods. Working together, I will move you and/or your team or organization in the desired direction to reach your goals.