Especially if you are a believer. I mean, wouldn’t you begin to question God? Where is He? How could He allow this to happen?
I’m not sure Daniel was awakened from his sleep. He may have been taken during the daytime. But he was captured along with three of his friends and taken to Babylon, the ruling power of the day.
No matter how you cut it, they were teenagers! You will need to read the story in Daniel 1. As you are reading ask the following questions.
* So where is God?
* Has God lost control?
* Couldn’t He have kept this from happening?
* Now what?
What I find fascinating about Daniel 1 is that God is the chief actor! Specifically God does three things.
1. God is the one pulling the strings when the Babylonian army invades Jerusalem.
2. God is the one pulling the strings when Daniel receives a special exemption.
3. God is the one pulling the strings when Daniel and his three friends outshine their classmates.
And just think. Many were thinking, “Where is God?” And He was right there all along. Right in the middle of the action. In fact, God was the main actor.
In your own life have you found yourself questioning where God is? Perhaps one day you will realize that He was there all along, right in the middle of it all!
Even if the new habit was formed earlier there will still be a critical point in the life of the habit.
That was the case for Daniel. About 400 years earlier King Solomon had suggested that if anyone was living in exile that they might pray facing Jerusalem. Daniel liked the idea and adopted the habit. So three times a day he opened his window and prayed toward Jerusalem.
So far so good…
Until a conspiracy was formed. Some of his colleagues simply wanted Daniel out of office. Who knows exactly why.
You’ll need to read the entire story in Daniel 6.
The point is Daniel had to decide if he was going to continue the habit. He could have prayed with the windows closed. But no doubt Daniel felt that to not pray as he always had would have been a betrayal against God.
How many of us consider our spiritual habits in a similar light?
Think about some of the basic habits we have:
You can add a few more perhaps. But how seriously do we take those habits? Yes, I realize that none of these bring instant gratification. Which can make it easier to let one slide.
But should we abandon those habits, would we consider it an act of betrayal towards God?
Daniel certainly did.
That’s why we read in Daniel 6:10, But when Daniel learned that the law had been signed, he went home and knelt down as usual in his upstairs room, with its windows open toward Jerusalem. He prayed three times a day, just as he had always done, giving thanks to his God. (NLT)
Your spiritual habits matter.
But those same habits which strengthen you in the tough times, also cause you to betray God if you choose to abandon them.
Are there any spiritual habits you need to reclaim?
After all, this is the year that your productivity is going to reach new heights. It will be your most productive year ever!
And so the guilt trip begins. “I’m not being as productive as I could be.”
So we cut some downtime and fill it with more productive tasks. We take less breaks during the day so we can be more productive.
We’re convinced that if we just upped our intensity longer we could be more productive.
But is that really true?
And are we all the same?
Is it a sign of laziness to schedule downtime to refresh ourselves mentally and renew ourselves physically?
In the football world it’s well established that defenses get tired if they are on the field too long during the game. Actually they become less productive.
So before you give into the productivity guilt complex and rush into a new high performance program, make sure you allow for and schedule some necessary downtime.
Yes, you may feel a little guilty, but you will be more productive!
A while back I lost my driver’s license. First time that has ever happened to me. No big deal, right? After all, how many times have I had to pull it out and show it to a police officer in the last two decades? None. Actually the only time I need to pull out my license is when I go up to Skyline Drive. And if I fly I need it. So I was not too worried or in a big hurry to go to DMV.
While driving home I get a call from Dick’s. Evidently I dropped my license in the store, and it was picked up and put in the safe. Finally someone figured I could probably use it. So now I won’t have to ruin a day with a painful visit to the DMV.
When I first lost my license I did not even notice. It could take weeks or months before I actually realize it is missing. Life is sometimes like that. Way too often I hear of another marriage breaking up. Wonder how long it took the couple to realize they had lost ‘it.’ Wonder if they remember when the wheels started coming off.
Think with me. What things are often lost but never found or recovered.
1. Integrity. You can build it over a lifetime and lose it in an instant.
2. Marriage. Fortunately my driver’s license was found and restored, but if it had not, a replacement could have been made. But too often in life things get lost, relationships start heading south, and there is no quick recovery. The pain may last for years and even intensify.
3. Devotion to Christ. Even Christ-followers have been known to lose their first love for their Savior (Revelation 2:4). Scary. Because not everything that gets lost gets found.
Check your wallet and make sure you have not lost something important.
In short, if we do our part, then God cannot let us down. Otherwise He will not look so good.
Over the years I have prayed and I have seen unanswered prayers and answered prayers. But some of the most remarkable answers to prayer have occurred when I also fasted.
In fact, I have written in my journal consecutive answers to consecutive fastings. Also, once I prayed and fasted for three days and had three incredible answers to prayer.
So guess what enters my mind if I am not careful?
If I desperately need an answer to prayer all I need to do is fast. In other words, fasting becomes my rabbit foot. Now I am slipping into magic and superstition rather than faith.
And let’s understand. God knows our hearts.
In 1 Samuel there is a story about Rabbit-Foot Theology. It’s found in chapter 4. Israel is at war with the Philistines. Israel was defeated in a battle and lost four thousand men.
Why the defeat? Great question, but they came up with the wrong answer. They went back and got the Ark of the Covenant. That became their rabbit’s foot. After all, if they lost now God would not look so good. And all the press reports that evening would focus on God’s defeat.
But God wants a genuine relationship with us, not a manipulative one.
To be quite honest whenever I fast now I am confronted with this reality. Am I fasting out of a genuine relationship with God or I am thinking that my fasting will force Him to grant my request?
What drives my devotion to God? Do I see Him as a ticket to the better life, whatever that might be?
If I get up at 5am to read my Bible is God obligated to bless me the rest of the day?
If I give up a Sunday morning on the golf course in order to go to church (just an illustration since I teach every Sunday morning), knowing that I can play later, am I expecting God to help me pick up a few extra birdies later on? After all, I sort of earned a little extra favor didn’t I?
Isn’t amazing how easy it is to fall for Rabbit-Foot Theology? None of us are immune to it.
Let’s focus on our heart, and not our rabbit’s foot.
As life moves forward at the speed of light I have found that the natural tendency is to say yes and add, add, and add some more. When football season arrives that has to get added in. That’s Saturday, Sunday, Monday night, and Thursday night. Then there is more reading and more meetings and more time developing people.
So my biggest challenge seems to be deciding what to say NO to. For me it looks like I will have to cut out some of the flow of information; just can’t read as much. Still sorting it out though.
Then there is the building project. Soon it will be something else.
But I believe deciding what not to do or do less of is going to be a BIG difference maker in my life.
One of the hardest things to say NO to is an idea while reading the Bible. My first thought is often ‘I need to study that passage a little more.’ Before I know it I have said yes and books are piled all over my desk. I must remind myself to say NO and put the books back and stay on task.
Steve Jobs was well known for saying that saying NO was perhaps the biggest secret to Apples’ success.
Now let’s be honest. How many of us really believe that saying NO could be such a key?
The hard part: not doing some good things. But even Jesus could not do everything. There were sick people He did not heal and there were people who wanted His time, yet He got in a boat and sailed away.
This is a guest post by my 17-year-old son, Gabe Henderson. He's in 11th grade and wrote this article for a school assignment. His interests include skiing and golf, and he runs a Minecraft server in his spare time.
Have you ever wanted to do something big, but all you get are little jobs? Frustration is understandable. We love doing the big things because we get more recognition that way. And of course, we love recognition, so the big, important things are typically what we strive to do.
If you find yourself suffering from a lack of recognition, then you should meet David.
The Israelites had a major problem: a group called the Philistines who lived nearby. They were a cruel, barbaric faction that seemed to enjoy attacking them. Eventually, King Saul of Israel took his army out to fight the Philistines, but the Philistines had a secret weapon — a giant man named Goliath. Goliath fought the terrified Israelites single-handedly.
King Saul himself was scared, but who wouldn’t be? Goliath was so terrifying that he could only be described as monstrous. The reward for killing the giant was great. So great in fact, that anyone would be after it, right? Wrong. Everyone in Saul’s army was afraid after watching many others be defeated by the giant. It wasn’t just Goliath’s monstrous strength, but his stature. Goliath stood over nine feet tall, and he wore the best armor that the Philistines could offer. No Israelite had enough confidence to volunteer…until David came along.
David was not a soldier. He just took care sheep, all day, every day. As a shepherd, he spent his days out in fields protecting his sheep from harm and from wild animals. While that may sound exciting, it wasn’t an everyday thing for sheep to be attacked. It was more likely that they would wander off, and he would have to retrieve them.
David’s brothers, however, were on the battlefront, where David thought they were fighting for the good of Israel. Unfortunately, the giant Goliath stopped all progress in that area. This was unknown to David’s father, who instructed him to take some food rations out to his brothers. Upon arrival, David heard the shouts of Goliath. Of course, the shouts were not very friendly. They were mostly taunts toward Israel, mocking everything from their manhood to God himself.
David was outraged. It was because of his lowly job of shepherding that David had the confidence to say, “I will stop this giant. My God and I will do it!” After all, several times in his career as a shepherd, David was protected by God from animals like lions or bears. This gave David the confidence that God would protect him.
That’s exactly what happened. David went to a stream, and found five, perfect stones. He took one of the stones, put it into his slingshot, and met Goliath on the battlefield. Goliath roared with scorn when he saw the puny David approaching. David took no notice of the taunts, and simply hurled his stone at the giant. A soft “plunk” was heard, and then Goliath was no longer boasting, but falling. Falling face forward into the dirt and showing no signs of getting back up. David had won.
What about you? Do you feel like God only wants you to do small things that nobody notices? It just may be that God is using these small jobs to prepare you for something great. 1 Corinthians 10 says “Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” It worked for David, and it’s the best way for you to live your life, too.
The fact is, we live in a quitter culture. People walk away from their jobs, their spouses, their new year’s resolutions, and their churches.
Near the end of the apostle Paul’s ministry some of his coworkers abandoned him. That absolutely amazes me. Just the thought of being able to serve alongside Paul fires me up. But people left him. My guess is, based on typical human reasoning, they had “good reasons” for leaving Paul high and dry. After all, they had “justifiable concerns” of Paul.
Over the years I have followed some pastors with incredible ministries. Men like Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, Andy Stanley, and Perry Noble. Their stories are similar. They have all had good friends and coworkers abandon them, and of course, all left for “good reasons.” In every case it was the pastor’s fault.
So I’m sure it was the same for the apostle Paul.
Perhaps those who abandoned Paul were concerned that his prison sentence showed that God was not in his minstry.
Whatever their reasoning they left. But under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit Paul in 2 Timothy 1:16 is asking God to greatly reward Onesiphorus who stood with him and encouraged him while he was lanquishing in prison. “May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains...”
My guess is you will cross paths with someone this week who has been abandoned by someone. They are feeling incredible loneliness.
Stay alert and take the time to step in and encourage. You will be glad you did. And God may just happen to shine on you, and even your family.
The story of how Starbucks almost went away, in fact it’s stock price was well below $10 a share, and how it recovered to where it is profitable and how it’s current stock price is at $60, is in one word, fascinating.
This is a great read for any individual or organizational leader to read. The quotes that I have included will just give you a taste of what’s in the book. Also, another word that describes the book is hope. The light had almost gone out at Starbucks.
While my copy is highlighted and dog-eared all over, I have chosen just a few quotes to give you an idea of what’s in the book. In the following quotes I have italicized some key words.
9. “Every time a barista had to tell a customer, ‘Sorry, we’re out of vanilla syrup’ or ‘We didn’t receive our banana shipment so I can’t make your Vivanno,’ the fragile trust between Starbucks and our partners and between Starbucks and our customers fractured.”
10. “Starbucks’ store managers were keys to the company’s transformation. All the cost cuts and innovation meant nothing unless our baristas understood their personal responsibility to connect with customers…” p. 193
11. “…reinforced how much a barista’s job matters given that he or she quite possibly might serve up the only human connection in a customer’s day.” p. 198
12. “I’ve never embraced traditional advertising for Starbucks…our success had been won with millions of daily interactions.” p. 211
13. “In September 2008, Starbucks had parted ways, somewhat painfully, with our primary advertising agency of four years…” p. 211
14. “…the more critical the times, the more important it is…to work together in a non-political, non-emotional, fact-focused way.” p. 221
15. “Although I never stopped believing that Starbucks would emerge from the darkness, I was nonetheless experiencing an emotional roller coaster daily.” p. 222
16. “And while I would not want to constantly battle against the odds, the raw feeling of accomplishing something that others did not think possible, or leading people beyond where they thought they could go, is extremely gratifying.” 302
17. “Never expect a silver bullet…Stick to your values…Find truth in trials and lessons in mistakes…Believe.” p. 309
As you read the book you realize that Howard Schultz put himself through a lot. In other words, he had enough money. He did not have to go back to Starbucks. So why did he do it?
“Quite simply, I love this company and the responsibility that goes with it. Onward…” p. 311
Onward is a candid and compelling story of a remarkable comeback. This book is required reading.
Onward was one of my favorite books not long ago. I purchased it as soon as it came out and devoured it within the week. It’s the story of how Starbucks almost went away with a worsening economy and internal troubles.
However, the former CEO, Howard Schultz, came back as CEO and began to once again oversee the day to day operations.
Today Starbucks’ stock price has increased almost ten-fold from its low. It has once again returned to profitability. Since I go there regularly, their story has always intrigued me.
The book is a great read as it covers the decision making, the store closings, and also the elimination of some of its people. On the one hand I’m sure many felt that Schultz went about it the wrong way. For some it could appear that he was unnecessarily ruthless at times. But Starbucks had lost its way, and someone had to right the ship. Howard Schultz was the man to do it.
I have included twenty quotes that sort of summarize the decisions, the emotional turmoil, and the process that brought Starbucks back. Rather than include all twenty in one post, I will break it into two posts with several highlights in each post. These are all the words of Howard Schultz.
1. “There are moments in our lives when we summon the courage to make choices that go against reason, against common sense and the wise counsel of people we trust.” p. 7
2. “What upset me, what felt like a blow to the gut, was the leak. I could not imagine who would do such a thing. It was nothing less than betrayal. In my life I place enormous value on loyalty and trust.” p. 27
3. “Saying good-bye to people when they leave Starbucks never gets easier, even when I think it is the right choice for the company, and especially when I truly respect the individual.” p. 60
4. “Did we have the right people with the right skills in place for everything that needed attention.” p.77
5. “Our coffee and marketing departments went out and conducted their own taste tests to gain a definitive understanding of what many consumers really wanted in lieu of a bold brew–not what we assumed they wanted, which was a weak, inferior coffee. What we heard, what many people told us, was that they wanted Starbucks to sell a more consistent, balanced brewed coffee.” p. 85
6. “Closing so many stores felt like a defeat, even if it was the right thing to ensure the company’s health.” p. 152
7. “Success is not sustainable if it’s defined by how big you become. Large numbers that once motivated me–40,000 stores!–are not what matter. The only number that matters is ‘one.’ One cup. One customer. One partner. One experience at a time.” p. 156
8. “I know people are angry and grieving and I know people are mad. But I had to make the difficult choice (and consider) the long-term sustainability of the company.” p. 172
Obviously being at the top can be emotionally draining and incredibly challenging.
In my next post I will add some more quotes and lessons from a great comeback.