Thursday, August 25, 2011

Starting Strong But Finishing Poorly

Self Esteem and Weak Leadership

Last week we looked at the early life of Joash, king of Judah.  We saw how he was able to thrive as king under the positive guidance of Jehoiada, the high priest, in spite of a severely dysfunctional family history. The historical account of Joash’s reign begins on a high note with the statement, “Joash did what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight throughout the lifetime of Jehoiada the priest.” (2 Chronicles 24:2)

Sadly his reign doesn’t end on this same positive note. The words “throughout the lifetime of Jehoiada the priest” foreshadow the downfall of Joash’s reign following the death of his mentor.

The early verses of 2 Chronicles, chapter 24 depict the acts of Joash and Jehoiada as they rebuild the temple of the Lord and reinstate godly worship. But in verse 15 we’re told Jehoiada dies and Joash is left without his lifelong mentor and guide.

Immediately things take a turn for the worse. Verses 17 and 18 tell us, “But after Jehoiada’s death, the leaders of Judah came and bowed before King Joash and persuaded him to listen to their advice. They decided to abandon the Temple of the Lord, the God of their ancestors, and they worshiped Asherah poles and idols instead!...”

Did these men take advantage of Joash while he was vulnerable following his mentor’s death? Is it possible he was a weak individual who thrived under the strong leadership of Jehoiada, the priest, but when left to his own devices succumbed to the pressure of other leaders around him? Was he not capable of making decisions himself?  Perhaps he struggled with low self esteem and self doubt, finding it easier to give in to the opinions of others than to defend his own beliefs.

Whatever the reason Joash is influenced by the leaders of Judah and a lifetime of revival of the Lord’s temple is tossed to the wind. Joash begins to worship idols and follows pagan gods. Zechariah, Jehoiada’s son, sees what is happening and questions Joash, calling him to task for turning from serving God. But Joash, too deeply enmeshed in the pagan lifestyle, coldly orders the leaders of Judah to kill Jehoiada’s son.

In the end Joash is assassinated by some of his own men because of his decision to kill Zechariah and doesn’t even warrant burial in the royal cemetery. It’s sad to see a life start out with such promise and end so poorly.

Do you struggle with self doubt? Perhaps you’ve been bullied. Have you made decisions based on the approval of your so called “friends” or co-workers; perhaps even your boss and then regretted the choices you made? Have you compromised your beliefs and standards to satisfy someone else?

These are hard questions to answer truthfully. No one likes to admit to compromising their values or changing who they are to make someone else happy. The truth is at some point in our lives we’ve probably all done just that. It’s very difficult to defend yourself and your beliefs to your peers or the bullies in your life if you struggle with self-esteem and self-worth. We see from the life of Joash how important it is to speak up for what we know is right and not give in to evil influence.

I’ve struggled with low self-esteem all my life. In hindsight I know one of my marriages failed because I was too weak to stand up for myself. I “went with the flow” and believed I was flexible, adaptable and accommodating when really I was just “wishy washy” and weak, allowing all my decisions to be made for me because I didn’t want to make them myself.

A poor self image is hard to overcome. Sometimes it’s hard to believe we’re worthy of self love and self respect and the respect of those around us.  We don’t think other people care about our opinions and don’t believe we have something of value to contribute to conversations and life around us. But believe me when I tell you we do! You are of utmost value to God! You have something important to contribute to this world and to the people around you! You are worthy of God’s love, your own love and the love and respect of others!

If you struggle with low self-esteem please seek the guidance of a trusted counselor. Consider reading some books on the subject – a good place to start is “Completely His” by Shannon Ethridge. Believe that God loves you. Remember the verse John 3:16, “For God loved the world so much that He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”  That’s you – the world is you and me! Try reading the New Testament in the Bible and you’ll see just how much God loves us all!

Have you struggled with self-esteem?  It’s more common than you think.  Please comment below.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Mentorship - Shaping People's Lives

Is there someone in your life you respect or admire? Someone who is a positive influence?  Someone who helped shape the person you are today because they cared enough to take time to listen and teach you?

Parents, aunts, uncles, family friends, teachers, grandparents, and pastors all make a significant difference in the life of a child if they are willing to take the time to listen patiently, teach, and when necessary, lovingly discipline.  As adults we can hone our talents, gifts and faith if we are able to find a knowledgeable person who is willing to mentor us in our quest to learn and grow. A great example of the influence an adult can have in a child’s life is seen in the initial rule of King Joash of Judah (2 Chronicles 23–24:1-14)

Let’s take a quick look at Joash’s relatives leading up to his reign. Joash’s grandfather, Jehoram, starts his reign by killing all his brothers – presumably so no one will usurp his throne. He worships pagan gods, leading all of Judah into idolatry. Eventually he is afflicted by what is termed “a severe intestinal disease” (2 Chronicles 21:18) and dies an agonizing death. The last verse of 2 Chronicles 21 sums up his reign succinctly by stating, “...No one was sorry when he died.” Ahaziah, Joash’s father, reigns as king of Judah for only one year before he is killed. The historical account of Ahaziah includes the words, “...He did what was evil in the sight of the Lord...” 2 Chronicles 22:4. Trust me this really isn’t the way you want the historical record of your reign as king to read!

Joash’s grandfather and father aren’t exactly a positive influence in his life, but wait until you hear about his grandmother! When Athaliah (Joash’s grandmother), finds out her son is dead she goes on a killing rampage targeting the entire royal family because she doesn’t want anyone ruling in her place. Talk about dysfunctional family!

Joash is just a baby when his grandmother goes on her killing spree and would certainly have perished. His aunt who is married to Jehoiada, the high priest, intervenes and steals Joash away, hiding him in the temple. He remains there for six years under the care of his aunt and her husband, Jehoiada. (2 Chronicles 22:10-12)

Eventually Joash’s evil grandmother is overthrown. At the tender age of seven Joash becomes king and is guided, taught and mentored by Jehoiada.  He reigns for 40 years and, “...Joash did what was right in the eyes of the Lord all the days of Jehoiada the priest.” (2 Chronicles 24:2) Now that’s what you want to see written on your epitaph as king! As long as Jehoiada is alive Joash thrives under his instruction and walks faithfully with the Lord.

Next week we’ll look at the flip side of Joash’s story. We’ll see what happens in the absence of a mentor and explore the damaging effects of peer pressure.

Early on in my career I worked as a secretary for the co-ordinator of a department in one of the hospitals in Winnipeg. I was in my early twenties and still very impressionable. I learned many lessons from this wonderful lady. She modeled exemplary work ethic, positive attitude in the midst of a stressful and chaotic department and she always had a kind word of encouragement for her staff. Each morning she would come into the office with a big grin on her face and say, “It’s a great day”, and you knew she genuinely meant it.

By watching her I learned you can choose the attitude you have each day (and a positive attitude is way more fun than a negative attitude), I learned to work hard and to serve people and I learned to manage stress in the work place (that one took a few more lessons over the years before I mastered it, but I caught the early glimpses of what stress management should look like).  It’s been 20 years since I worked for her but last year I took a few minutes and wrote her a note explaining the impact she made in my life and how much I appreciated the things I learned working for her. 

Joash’s life could have been very different had it not been for the patient instruction of Jehoiada.  My career may have been very different had it not been for the influence of this lovely lady in my early working years. Never underestimate the impact you can have on someone’s life. Look around you. Is there a young person you can help by offering some guidance? Do you need someone to mentor you in your faith journey? Has someone new started in your office and needs a little help?

Comment below if you’ve mentored someone or been mentored yourself.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Africa Famine - My Thoughts

A few days ago I was watching an interview with a representative from Doctors Without Borders on CTV’s Canada AM. I listened to the heart wrenching description of the conditions these people endure a world away every minute of every day and it brought tears to my eyes.

After the interview was finished I went into the kitchen, made myself some rye toast with peanut butter, sat down at the table and bowed my head to say grace. As I began to thank God for the food, a thought entered my mind that felt like a physical blow to the head. I really wasn’t grateful for the food. In fact as I’d been preparing it I was thinking how toast really wasn’t my favourite breakfast but it was quick and easy and I was too lazy to take the time to prepare anything else. I realized how much I take for granted in my life. Just the simple fact grain is available in abundance in Canada and I can have two pieces of toast on my plate each morning makes me one of the most blessed people in the world today!

Now I’m faced with a choice. I can accept the fact that I am one of the privileged people in this world and carry on obliviously with my life, or I can try to use that privilege to make a difference in this time of famine in Africa.

Can we actually sit back in this country, listen to the news reports, shake our heads in sorrow and then return to our normal lives unchanged by this tragedy? I suppose we can and if we do our hearts become a little more hardened to the plight of people all around us and it’s a little easier to ignore the next humanitarian disaster and the next and the next. I personally don’t want to live my life this way.

This time I really bowed my head in prayer. I begged God’s forgiveness for my ungratefulness and in tears asked Him to reveal to me how I might make a difference in the famine in Africa. What can we do as the blessed people in Canada to help the starving people of Africa? I think we all need to ask ourselves this question. What can we do to make a difference and feed these people in their desperate time of need? What can you do personally to help?

There are many wonderful organizations already on the ground in the Horn of Africa providing relief to the refugees who walk hundreds of miles in sweltering heat to get to their last desperate hope for survival – the refugee camp. Please visit some of these websites and consider giving to make a difference in this famine. The links below are for the Canadian websites but you can visit the corresponding sight in your country for non-government organizations offering aid in Africa.

Doctors Without Borders –
Compassion Canada –
Samaritan’s Purse –
World Vision –

What am I personally going to do about it? I’m starting a fundraising effort with a goal to raise $500 by August 31 for donation to Samaritan’s Purse to help with their efforts towards famine relief. The good news is that any funds donated by September 16 are eligible for matching funds from the Canadian Government so please consider donating now. What will you do?