How is your heart? Are you full of joy? Nothing great is accomplished without work. Labor is central to the purpose of life, however we cannot let our labor strangle our joy of faith and life. In the middle of his labor of love, rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, Nehemiah had to be reminded that “the joy of the Lord is our strength.” Nehemiah reminded those around him whose strength was flagging in the face of challenge, of this great secret and their strength was rekindled. At the very outset, God set down the principle of rest and relaxation—of re-creation—by resting on the seventh day of creation. It is a way for each of us to keep love of God and care for ourselves and our faith central. It is also a secret to keeping the joy of our faith and lives fresh. Give pause to rest and refocus, then give thanks for all that God has done in your life and the lives of those around you. Trust God. God loves you, and God will see you through. Open your heart to God’s love and find new strength and a rekindled joy.
(scripture of the week)
Yet this I call to mind,
And therefore, I have hope:
Because of the Lord’s great love, we are not consumed,
For his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
Great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3.20-23
Mark 8:10 tells us that after Jesus performed the miracle of the feeding of the 4,000 and then got into a boat with His disciples and sailed to the region of Dalmanutha. As soon as he arrives there, we are told that the Pharisees arrived and began to debate with him and demanded he perform signs. But sandwiched in between these pressure-filled scenarios Jesus goes sailing on a boat with His disciples. Jesus may have went sailing on a boat simply to get to the next destination, but it is also possible that Jesus needed a bit of a break with his close disciples before the next series of demands.
Perhaps this is a good lesson for us. We all need some time to relax with close friends and family with whom we can enjoy life. Without these moments, our lives are simply nonstop stress and the likelihood of a meltdown increases dramatically. We don’t often think of Jesus enjoying sailing on the Sea of Galilee with his disciples, and yet he doubtless enjoyed the moment.
Take time to enjoy life with family and friends. We all need it. It may be boating or hiking or road trip, whatever it is take some time and enjoy the journey. Jesus did, and so should we—Dr. TJ
Easter is a wonderful time to think about hope and renewal. As leaders we often need to recognize our need for renewal. Easter of course reminds us that God makes all things new in Christ and offers us new life and a fresh start through God’s forgiveness and grace. But many times we need to take time to reflect on the life-changing truths and allow them to take deeper root in our lives so that the fullness of transformation can take place. Just as a tree planted needs time to grow deep roots before it can grow to its full potential, so also we need to take time to allow our roots to sink into the truths that can nourish our growth and transform our lives. It seems a great divine truth that Easter overlaps spring when we celebrate trees budding and flowers blooming with colors and promise. But the budding and the bloom can’t come without the roots sinking into the soil and the time for growth. Challenge yourself to take time for renewal and discover new growth and perhaps your leadership may discover a whole new bloom.
Wishing you a blessed Easter season –Dr TJ
If I had understood as I do now
that in this little palace of my soul dwelt so great a King,
I would not have left him alone so often. - St. Teresa of Avil
Joseph’s life is an amazing story. We see him move from dreamer to leader, but not before first experiencing jealousy and betrayal as he moved from prison to palace. If anyone had a reason to complain, it was Joseph. He experienced evil returned for good, lies for integrity, but still God provided the path that opened to the fulfillment of the promise. The truth is God was preparing Joseph for his moment of ministry. On the way to our dreams, God often leads our path of destiny through challenge and adversity. But in so doing God is also refining and purifying us so that when our moment of leadership comes we are fully prepared and strengthen to face the trials and temptations of the moment. Joseph would one day rise to a position of power second only to the Pharaoh of Egypt. He would need integrity and wisdom that only adversity and challenge could provide. When he finally met his brothers who had betrayed him and sold him into slavery, he was able to see God’s plan and extend forgiveness and grace. His words offer all of us a perspective of faith and wisdom:
“You intended it to harm me, but God intended it for good” (Genesis 50:20, NIV).
The New Year is a wonderful time to let go of the past and look to the future. Most of us have past regrets we would like to let go of. And truth be told, most of us have some anxieties over the future. But God comes to us with a wonderful word of promise. God has a plan and purpose for our lives, even though we often only catch glimpses of it as it unfolds. But even more important, because of God’s presence with us, we can be confident that when we need God’s strength we can lean into his arms and trust his power and provision. The words of Jeremiah are such an encouragement, particularly for anyone with regrets over the past or anxiety over the future.
(Jer. 29:11–14 NIV11) “11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the LORD, “”
Lord, help me to trust your plans and purposes for my life. Help me to let go of my past and give it to you. Forgive my shortcomings and wash my life anew. Bless the seeds that I have planted that they may grow and bear good fruit for your kingdom. In all things may I be a witness for you and reflect your light in a world in need of hope that only you can truly give, amen.
We all need a time of rest. It is so easy to get over-committed doing good things. But all of us need to recognize the value of practicing Holy Rest. The scriptures teach us that God rested on the seventh day. If God needed to rest, so should we. It was not just a time to regain strength, it was also a time to celebrate the good that had been accomplished. Keeping the Lord’s Day was also part of the 10 commandments God gave Moses. Work is good, but rest is also needed to celebrate what has been accomplished, offer thanks and praise to God, and spend time with family and nurturing relationships. Make certain you are finding time to rest in the rhythm of your week and also an extended time of rest in the rhythm of your year, as you spend quality vacation time with family. When you rest you recharge your energy, re-center your life, reconnect with vital relationships, and revitalize your relationship with God. Re-discover the sacredness of rest.
Today we pause to remember those who have paid the highest sacrifice for the freedoms we enjoy. May their sacrifice inspire us to strive to live out the highest aspirations of the noble ideals we so cherish. May we continue to work for liberty and justice for all. And may we seek to be willing to sacrifice for the greater good and pray for those families who will always have an empty chair at their table.
I am reminded that Moses was an extraordinary leader who was willing to risk everything to confront the powers of oppression and injustice and lead the people of Israel from bondage to freedom. May we all be willing to work for freedom, justice and equality.
Martin Luther King, Jr Day
Today we give pause to celebrate the life of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, a great minister and humanitarian who took a stand for justice. Not unlike Moses, Dr. King was willing to face the powers of oppression and injustice and raise a voice for freedom and justice. Like Moses, he caught a vision of the Promised Land, even though he himself would not live to see its fulfilment. He had a biblical vision that peace and justice were possible together, but the pathway there might be marked by challenge and adversity. He had a deep faith in Christ that empowered him. Psalm 85.10 casts a beautiful vision:
Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet,
righteousness and peace will kiss.
As we give pause to honor a great man who worked for a better world, let us look deeply at our own lives and challenge ourselves to follow Christ's command to love our neighbor regardless of race or place, to build bridges of peace and understanding, and to take a stand for justice anywhere and everywhere. Dr. King once said, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
Let us dare to believe that all children are God's children, and dare to act as if all children were our children.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that” --Martin Luther King Jr., A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches
Let us be emboldened by that great vision—Dr. TJ
Moses never celebrated Christmas, or even Hanukkah, but Moses did follow the fire of God, and knew the miracle of God’s light in his life. Moses experienced the flame of God’s presence in the burning bush and then led the Israelites to follow the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night as they escaped the chains of slavery and oppression in Egypt and journeyed toward the Promised Land.
One of the customs of Jews is to light the candles of the menorah as part of Hanukkah and remembering God’s faithfulness in the rededication of the temple in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt.
Christians light candles remembering God’s faithfulness in the coming of Christ to bring the light of God’s hope, peace, love and joy into a world darkened by sin and brokenness.
Take time this season to allow the light of God’s love to light your life and, in turn, light your world. Share the light of God’s love this season.
Wishing you a very Merry Christmas—Dr TJ
And to all my Jewish friends, Happy Hanukkah
As Moses led the Israelites through the wilderness, they often lacked faith and began to grumble and complain. It may have been that the root of their lack of faith began as a lack of thankfulness. The truth is thankfulness can be a wellspring of faith. Thankfulness also shapes our lives in profound and lasting ways.
Thankfulness may have been a lesson Moses had learned as he trudged across the desert the first time, fleeing Pharaoh after killing the Egyptian. Behind him lay the power and privilege of Egypt; before him stretched the stark, barren landscape of the desert. It gave Moses a lot of time to think. By the time he reached the well at the oasis in the land of Midian, he may well have been thankful for just a glass of water. It was a humbling experience. But it was part of a season that God would use to shape and mold Moses. It may have been a key to Moses standing up for the daughters of Reuel, one of whom became his wife. Later when Moses’ life and leadership were coming to a close, he would pause and recount God’s faithfulness to the Israelites as God led them out of Egypt toward the Promised Land. Moses also instructed them that after they had crossed over into the Promised Land and experienced a time of harvest and blessing that they were to share a time of celebration and thanksgiving with those in need (Deuteronomy 26:12).
This scripture may have been part of the inspiration of our forefathers and mothers sharing the first Thanksgiving feast, after a bountiful harvest, with their Native American friends who had helped them through a time of adversity and challenge.
Cicero wrote, “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.” Thankfulness is also the mark of a life of faith, and a great attribute for positive leadership. Discover thankfulness. Let thankfulness be one of the hallmarks of your life.
Living in abundance—Dr. TJ
Dr TJ Jenney, PhD
Dr. T. J. Jenney, Ph.D. is a seasoned pastor and leader who has served churches as well as served as a campus minister and chaplain for police and fire departments as well as the Air Force Auxiliary. Dr. Jenney also served as a faculty member at Purdue University, serving as an adjunct professor in Organizational Leadership. His experience includes serving as a president and CEO of non-profit organizations. He holds a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology and Higher Education Administration from Purdue and an M.Div and an S.T.M. from Yale University. He served as a contributing editor of William B. Eerdmans Bible Dictionary (1989) and Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible (2000), as well as written articles for journals.