Circle of Influence

Before retiring in 2016, I worked as a Supervisor in a Program for delinquent teens. The last ten years of that time, my position included hiring Staff, tracking and scheduling trainings, resolving grievances submitted by the kids, and posting the weekly staff schedule for a workforce of 65 to 70 people.  Each year, I was given a budget of how many hours I was allowed to schedule for each of our Staff each week. One day, several years before I retired, the Director of the Program asked me to come to his office. He said that recently, the number of hours our Staff were working was often exceeding our budgeted hourly allowance for labor and asked for my help. I told him that I always scheduled our Staff within the number of hours I had been given, but that my position didn’t allow me to have control over the number of hours people actually worked. I told him the Floor Supervisors were responsible for that, and that I couldn’t tell them what to do since their positions were parallel to mine. His reply was, “I’m not asking you to. All I’m asking you to do is affect your circle of influence.” Following this, I pondered what the Director had said, and then began to mention the number of hours our Staff were working whenever possible in a non-threatening way, just bringing awareness to it, and as I watched, our labor numbers began to come into line with our budget.
In Matthew 16:18 (NLT), Jesus, talking to one of His disciples named Peter, said this: “Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.” The word Jesus used for church was a word known in Jewish culture called “Ekklesia”. Ekklesia was actually a secular word, meaning a social impact group, with implications of affecting Society, all the way up to and including influencing Government. That’s what we, the Church, are to be. Each of us has a circle of influence given to us by God. We can’t force our Society to change, but if each one of us works to affect his or her circle of influence, we will see the effects of our collective work on Society. One Pastor put it this way. “Go and preach the Gospel, and if necessary, use words.” What we do, affects others. So, who are those in your circle of influence that you can affect for the Kingdom God?
 

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How is Your Soil?

Growing up on my father’s farm in Central Kansas, I loved the spring and early summer months. Trees were leafing out and blooming. Everything was green. The pungent smell of locust trees and lilac bushes. Everything seemed so clean and fresh. New calves were being born, with their pure white faces and rich red bodies. Litters of kittens and puppies being born. It was a special time of year. It was also a time of planting and harvesting. My father would meticulously prepare the soil for the new seed to be planted, carefully turning the top soil up side down with his equipment. Weeds would then begin to decay and add their nutrients back into the soil. The top soil would be made soft and supple to receive the new seed. All the sorghums: milo, cane and sedan grass would be planted in the spring to be harvested the coming fall. Winter wheat that had been planted the previous fall would begin to get heads of grain, and then slowly turn golden to be harvested in late June. It was a majestic time of year. In Matthew 13:2-9, (NLT), Jesus told the story of a farmer who went out to sow seed. “Some seeds fell on a footpath, and the birds came and ate them. Other seeds fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seeds sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow. But the plants soon wilted under the hot sun, and since they didn’t have deep roots, they died. Other seeds fell among thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants. But other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted.” Jesus ended the parable by saying, “Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.”   Later on, Jesus explained the deep meaning of the parable to his disciples. “Now listen,” he said. “The seed that fell on the footpath represents those who hear the message about the Kingdom and don’t understand it. Then the evil one comes and snatches away the seed that was planted in their hearts. The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word. The seed that fell among the thorns represents those who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life and the lure of wealth, so no fruit is produced. But the seed that fell on good soil represents those who truly hear and understand God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as has been planted.” If we are to grow and produce fruit in the Kingdom of God, we must meticulously prepare the soil of our hearts to receive the word of God. As we study Scripture, as we pray, as we listen to sound teaching. As we allow the Holy Spirit to soften our hearts. As we clear away the distractions of the world, we allow God to prepare our hearts and we produce a crop of thirty, sixty, or even one-hundred times what has been planted. He who has ears to hear should listen and understand.


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