What’s So Good About Good Friday?

Almost 2,000 years ago, Jesus was nailed to a cross on a Friday during Passover and died. It seemed like the end of a dream for his followers, who believed he would change the world.

Yet this week Christians from around the world will celebrate the event with a holiday known as Good Friday. As non-Christians look at the event, though, it may raise the question, “What’s good about the death of Jesus?”

Here are four reasons why Christians can consider the death of Jesus to be “good.”

It pleased God. Isaiah 53 predicts the sacrifice Jesus would make, bearing the punishment for our sins even though he had done no wrong. Then in 53:10 it says, “Yet the LORD was pleased to crush him severely.” (HCSB) This seems like a wrong thing for God to be pleased by, but He had some good reasons.

It served justice. Because all people have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, they have to be punished. With his death on the cross, Jesus took on all those sins and paid the penalty for all who are willing to follow him.

It fixed a broken relationship. When Adam and Eve sinned, it broke the fellowship God longed to have with His creation. When Jesus paid the punishment for our sins, it restored the path for us to have fellowship with God again, which is why He was pleased by the death of His son.

Death wasn’t permanent. The followers of Jesus didn’t know it at the time (although Jesus had told them it would happen) but Jesus’ death was only temporary. He was sealed in a grave on Friday, but by Sunday morning he was alive and free from the bonds of death. That gave an entirely new perspective on his death. What had seemed to be awful on Friday suddenly became good when viewed in light of his resurrection.

While having nails hammered into his hands and feet didn’t make for a very good Friday for Jesus, it did turn out to be not only a good Friday, but a great Friday for those who believe in him.

Palm Sunday Still Has Meaning for Christians

On Sunday Christians around the world will celebrate Palm Sunday. Most people know this primarily as a day when students in the primary children’s department carry palm branches to the front of the sanctuary, which kicks off Holy Week.

But what does Palm Sunday mean?

Biblically, the story of Palm Sunday is found in all four Gospels, and was predicted in the Old Testament book of Zechariah. In these accounts, Jesus rode into the city of Jerusalem on a donkey’s colt. People ran ahead of him, laying down palm branches and shouting “Hosanna! Blessed is the king of Israel.” In those days, a palm branch signified victory and a king on a donkey symbolized peace.

This was an important event for the people of Israel at the time. Israel didn’t have a king, and hadn’t had a real one in about 600 years. But they really, really wanted one.

They had been living under various foreign rulers for centuries, and currently were under the jurisdiction of Rome and the Caesars (at that time Tiberius). But the people knew the Old Testament stories of the glorious kingdoms of David and Solomon, when Israel was one of the world’s superpowers. They longed to return to those days.

When Jesus came speaking with authority and performing miracles, all the while speaking of the Kingdom of God, it was a natural assumption by the people that he would depose Rome and restore the kingdom of Israel, with himself as the ruler.

But as the week following Palm Sunday went on, Jesus didn’t plot a coup and didn’t take on the Roman government. Instead, he continued to speak against the religious leaders and tell stories that many didn’t understand. When Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples, agreed to betray him, the religious leaders were able to turn the majority of the crowd from shouting “Hosanna!” to “Crucify him!”

Although the people at that time misunderstood the kingship of Jesus when they made a pathway of palm branches for him, today Christians continue to celebrate Palm Sunday because it symbolizes the beginning of Jesus becoming king of world. He just did that in a far less spectacular fashion than the first century Jews thought, but in a way that continues to have a worldwide and eternal impact.

7 Qualities to Become a Great Leader

What makes a great leader? Leadership guru John C. Maxwell lists 21 qualities. Forbes magazine presents 22. Other writers list 10, or even boil it down to five essential qualities.

Like beauty, what makes a great leader is often in the eye of the beholder.

One unique character study on leadership can be found in the Old Testament book of Nehemiah. It takes place about 150 years after Jerusalem has been destroyed by the Babylonians, but it was now under control of the Persians. Nehemiah, a descendant of the Jews captured by the Babylonian army, served as cup bearer to King Artaxerxes (meaning he tasted all of the king’s drinks to make sure they weren’t poisoned). Nehemiah decided that the walls around Jerusalem should be rebuilt to make it livable again for his fellow Jews.

Although his position seemed an unlikely one for leadership, here are a few qualities that made him a capable leader.

Courage. Nehemiah wanted to be released from his duties to return to Jerusalem to rebuild it, and presented that request to the king. This was at a time when kings might lop off the head of anyone who was impudent. But Artaxerxes granted the request. Being a leader often means taking a chance on making a change, even if it could have negative results.

Optimism tempered by reality. When Nehemiah returned with high hopes of rebuilding the city wall, he first took a night tour of broken down wall to form a realistic idea of what needed to be done and to begin developing a strategy. Dreaming big is great, but anyone can do that; leaders find ways to turn possibilities into realities.

Willingness to pitch in. Nehemiah didn’t merely give orders to the workers, he worked alongside them to build the wall. When they were in danger of attack from enemies, he took up his weapons, ready to stand alongside the others to defend themselves. When people see their leader in the trenches with them, they feel more invested in the task, which creates an improved work ethic.

Confidence. When faced by naysayers, and even threats of having his enemies report fake news to the king, Nehemiah continued his work, knowing he was doing the right thing. Opposition will always face leaders who are trying to make a change, but those who have confidence in what they’re doing have the best chance of success.

Defending his people. When Nehemiah learned that local rulers were charging outrageous taxes, so severe that people were selling off their land to pay it, he became angry. He confronted the rulers and got them to agree to return the property and quit charging interest. Being a leader means being aware of the situation of your people, and working to correct any injustices.

Celebrating. When the Jews successfully completed the wall, in just 52 days, he held a weeklong celebration. Letting people celebrate the successful completion of a task, especially a stressful one, builds camaraderie and increases their willingness to engage in future tasks with a positive attitude.

Communication. Throughout the process of building the wall, Nehemiah kept communicating the vision and the plans to keep the process going. Leaders keep the communication lines strong so that everyone knows the status and goal of the project.

 

6 Reasons You Need to Train Your Staff

Many companies focus on giving their customers the best service and products, but the key to providing the best is having great employees. The key to creating great employees is making sure they are trained to do their jobs and do them well.

Whether you’re hiring employees for a Fortune 500 company or gathering volunteers for a church event, training is vital to make everything work smoothly. Training requires an investment of time, effort and even money, but the long-term rewards make it worthwhile.

Here are six reasons to spend time to train employees properly:

Better work ethic. Being given an assignment without proper training to carry it out can be frustrating for employees, and demoralizing when they’re told they did it wrong. Frustrated, demoralized employees won’t work as hard or care as much about the end result.

Employee retention. Seeking and hiring new personnel is time-consuming and costly. Staff members who are trained to do their jobs well and enjoy what they’re doing will stay with you longer.

New horizons. Proper training can develop skills people didn’t know they had, and make them eager to learn new ways to do their job better.

Improved teamwork. When employees are trained – especially if they are cross-trained – they will be able to work with each other efficiently and with less stress.

Consistent performance. Trained properly, employees will deliver a consistent message, service and product to clients, meaning less time spent correcting mistakes and misunderstandings. That makes both you and your customers happy.

 

First Day of Spring Celebrated in Many Ways

There is something fresh and exciting about the first day of spring, pushing even those with gloomy dispositions toward optimism.

This year, spring arrived at 6:29 a.m. (Eastern Time) on March 20. That is the time the vernal equinox occurred – when the sun crossed the imaginary plane of the equator. It marks the day when nighttime and daylight are virtually the same length. After this, the number of daylight hours will continue to increase.

The vernal equinox (from the Latin words vernalis, meaning “of the spring” and equinox, meaning “equal night”) always occurs within the three-day period of March 19-21. Although the balance between day and night is roughly equal, it varies with the latitude. On the vernal equinox, you’ll also see the sun rise due east and set due west, no matter where you live.

Meteorologists tend to define the beginning of spring based on average temperatures for the local area.

Of course, just because the calendar is marked with the first day of spring on March 20, it doesn’t mean that “spring” as we know it actually takes place that day. In the southern United States, spring-like weather often begins earlier, and the southernmost areas like Florida and in California may not see a marked difference from the rest of the year. Meanwhile, in the northern United States and in Canada, spring weather may not arrive for another month.

The beginning of spring, whether on the vernal equinox or when the weather becomes truly spring-like, is a big deal around the world and many cultures have optimistic celebrations to welcome its arrival.

  • In Poland, celebrants created straw-filled paper dolls to represent winter then drown them in a river or lake to symbolize the end of winter.
  • In Switzerland, a large effigy of a snowman is burned in a public square to symbolize the end of winter and the beginning of spring.
  • The Netherlands and Australia both host flower festivals to mark the beginning of spring.
  • In Japan, people plan celebratory picnics under the cherry trees when the spring blossoms are in full bloom.
  • In India, celebrants of Holi, the first day of spring, are smeared with various colored powders marking the triumph of good (spring) over evil (winter).
  • The egg, the symbol of new life, is the center of attention in Bosnia’s Festival of Scrambled Eggs. Massive amounts of scrambled eggs are cooked in large pots on the first day of spring and handed out for free.

The United States doesn’t have any official First Day of Spring celebrations but it marks a time of year when people become more active outside, plant gardens and, of course, embark on spring cleaning chores. Often it coincides with Easter activities, although this year Easter falls nearly a month after the vernal equinox.

 

Get Men Involved to Spur Church Growth

Gender gaps and equality are discussions filling recent news reports but there is one area where a sizable gender gap exists without much notice – a lack of men in the church.

According to Church for Men, the typical congregation in the United States is comprised of 61 percent women and only 39 percent men. This holds true across all age ranges. On a given Sunday, only about 12 percent of men attend church, and nearly a quarter of all married women are attending church alone. The divide is even more pronounced for midweek events, where women make up 70-80 percent of attendees.

Why does this matter? Studies show that involvement of men in the church has huge benefits. A church with a 50-50 attendance split between men and women is typically a growing church, while a church with 30 percent or fewer men in attendance is a dying church. Children of men who attend church regularly, especially boys, tend to stay involved in church longer into their teen years and beyond. And transforming men has a wide ripple effect in families and in the community.

So what can be done to attract more men to the church? Here are a few places to start.

Beef up. Surprisingly, only about 10 percent of churches have a strong men’s ministry. Begin placing an emphasis on developing a ministry to men, but also look for areas in existing ministries where you can include men.

Roughen up. Churches often reflect the feminine in their décor and outreach, which tends to leave men feeling like outsiders. Using bold colors instead of pastels and décor that is a bit more rustic will make men feel more at home.

Rock out. In general, men prefer louder music with more rock elements and strong lyrics, rather than praise music that repeat the same words over and over.

Fist bump. Men are becoming more comfortable with the bro hug, but for many men physical touch beyond a firm handshake, along with talking about feelings, still makes them feel uncomfortable. Develop environments where they can feel manly while getting more involved.

Be active. Because men usually are more action-oriented, find ways to include them in activities that require more action, like church maintenance and planning outdoor activities. Join sports leagues where men can ease into church participation through activities they enjoy.

Action stories. It’s no secret that most men prefer an action-adventure movie or story. Include more teaching on some of the mighty heroes of the Old Testament to show that men can be men and still honor God.

Pat the backs. Men react well to praise and encouragement. Rather than being critical of men for not being involved, emphasize their importance and recognize them for the efforts they are putting forth.

Concise communication. Most men are not given to long conversations, and communication is often brief and to the point.

Make Meetings More Efficient and Productive

How often has this happened to you: Just as you’re entering into the creative and strategic part of your project, it’s time for a meeting. The third one of the day.

With a heavy sigh, you take your seat in the conference room, aware that your project will have to wait until tomorrow as the deadline for completion draws closer.

Meetings are a bane for many church and office workers. While often necessary to move forward and to create a sense of team work, they can also rob people of productivity and cause a sense of discontentment.

So when it’s your turn to schedule a meeting, how do you make it productive and to the point? Here are a few tips:

Have a specific agenda of items to discuss. Keep the list short and focused. More will get done in a shorter time.

Limit the meeting to no more than one hour. Be ruthless in ending the meeting at the end of 60 minutes even if not all agenda items have been covered. Schedule another short meeting the next day to cover those items.

Limit discussion to the agenda items. Discussions can quickly spin off along multiple rabbit trails that increase meeting length and decrease productivity. Value everyone’s input, but if the discussion strays, gently but firmly bring everyone back to the agenda.

Consider alternatives. There are other ways than a conference room meeting to pass along information or to gather input. Texts, emails and even phone messages can often bring the desired results more efficiently and quicker than a meeting.

Follow up. Nothing makes a meeting seem more unimportant than having no follow up to it. People will be more invested in projects when they know their meeting input is showing results.

 

A Brief History of Daylight Saving Time

Changing clocks to take better advantage of daylight hours is an idea that has been around for almost 100 years, but only a mandated national event in the United States for the past 50 years.

Daylight Saving Time begins on March 12, when we turn our clocks forward an hour (yes, it means “losing” an hour).

For most people in the United States, DST has been an annual rite of spring and fall. Although Benjamin Franklin sarcastically wrote about the concept in the 1700s, the idea has only been implemented in the past century.

Why DST? The idea for DST is to coordinate daylight hours with most people’s schedules to conserve on the use of artificial light. Today most people get up later and stay up later than previous generations, so light later in the day is more important than in the early morning.

Canadians were the first. DST was first used in Thunder Bay, Ontario, in 1908. Neighboring areas adopted it soon after.

World War I makes it go international. Germany instituted DST in 1916 to reduce the use of artificial light to save energy for the war effort. England did the same the following year and the United States put it into practice in 1918.

Not a popular concept in the States. After just one year, the United States quit using DST. Since most people were farmers who started the day early, they preferred having more daylight at the beginning of the day.

Another World War. In 1942, during World War II, the United States again put DST into practice, which lasted until 1945. Then it was back to a free-for-all, with some cities and states using DST and others not.

Uniformity at last. In 1966, in order to end the confusion with areas using different time designations, the U.S. Congress passed the Uniform Time Act, which put everyone on DST starting the last Sunday in April through the last Sunday in October.

Extending DST. In 2007, the length of DST was extended. It now starts on the second Sunday in March and goes until the first Sunday in November.

Not quite nationwide. Two states do not observe DST – Arizona and Hawaii. Indiana had been part of that group but began observing it in 2007.

International DST. Daylight Saving Time is observed in 70 countries, affecting about 1 billion people.

Reminding your friends. For many people who attend church services on Sundays, the time change can be confusing and easy to forget. Some people have even been known to be late for work on Monday because clocks and alarms weren’t changed. Now would be a great time to send out reminders to friends and colleagues.

10 Ways to Appreciate Employees All Year

Businessman winning cup trophy in the office

“Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.” – Richard Branson.

It has long been known that the better employees are treated, the more loyal they will be, and the more loyal they are to a company or employer, the better they will do their jobs and serve their customers. Friday, March 3 is Employee Appreciation Day when employers get to show their employees a little extra love for the work they do.

While this is one special day, it can be the kickoff to a year-long effort to show employees how much you value their time and energy. Here are 10 tips of how to show appreciation to employees on March 3 and throughout the year.

  1. Praise in public. While the employee may feel slightly embarrassed to be singled out for their work in front of others, deep inside everyone likes to be recognized by boss and peers alike. On the flip side, if you have a criticism, do that in private.
  2. Gift cards. Randomly reward someone for a job well done with a gift card. These don’t have to be big – even a $10 card to a local coffee shop conveys that you are paying attention and appreciate what they’ve done.
  3. Invest in new technologies. Up-to-date hardware and software shows that you care enough about your employees to give them the best tools to do their job in the best way.
  4. Flexible schedules. If an employee can do part of their job from a laptop at a coffee shop or from home, give them the grace to occasionally do so.
  5. Summer Friday bonus. Let your employees leave an hour early on Fridays during the summer, especially in northern climates where the season for outdoor activity is shorter. This has been shown to improve productivity during summer months.
  6. Lunch dates. Randomly choose an employee or employees to join you for lunch. Talk about anything except work. Get to know them personally. Make sure all employees are eventually included.
  7. Remember birthdays. A card or just a personal note wishing happy birthday is a simple way to say you’re thinking of them. If you remember their spouse’s and children’s birthdays, that’s a bonus.
  8. Snack table. Provide free snacks for employees in the break room or other public area. Remember to include healthy choices for those on special diets.
  9. Share the company. Occasionally let your employees know what’s going well and what isn’t going well in the company, including some of the overarching financial goals. When done in an informative, non-critical way, this can give your employees a more vested interest in the company.
  10. The Golden Rule. The best way to show appreciation is to treat your employees the way you’d want to be treated in their shoes.

 

Failing Better Leads to Success

 

A friend of mine is a successful businessman, running an international company that he started from scratch. Before Fred became successful, though, he spent 10 years losing money going from one failed venture to the next. That’s the point where many people would have packed it in and gone to work for another businessman.

But not Fred.

“Quitting wasn’t an option for me,” Fred told me. “I had to learn to fail better every time. Making a mistake and failing doesn’t mean you quit. I believe failure makes you better and stronger. It makes you a better human being.”

It is much the same attitude Thomas Edison had in his quest to invent a light bulb. He famously said, “I have gotten lots of results! If I find 10,000 ways something won’t work, I haven’t failed. I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is often a step forward.”

This is the principle of failing forward. Instead of letting a failure create a stopping point, Fred and Thomas Edison and many successful people like them used failure as a stepping stone to their next attempt at success. They analyzed why they’d failed, made adjustments and moved on to the next project.

Failing is almost always a prerequisite for success because people afraid of failing rarely take the risks necessary to move forward and develop new ideas. They get stuck in ruts or simply follow the well-traveled paths of other people’s ideas.

Leaders can either foster or hinder innovation by their own attitudes toward failure. Leaders who demand perfection from their employees before presenting a finished work will have a team of people who play it safe – they’ll have few failures but also few real success stories.

On the other hand, leaders who have a high tolerance for failure may find a messy playing field littered with half-baked ideas, but will discover one or two that soar to great heights of success. Many of the world’s best products – from sticky notes to cornflakes – developed from failures.

To fail forward, follow these guidelines:

  • Stop expecting to succeed on your first attempt.
  • Get over the fear of failure.
  • When failure happens, analyze: What went wrong and most importantly, what went right that you can use as the building blocks for the next attempt.
  • Try again, using the knowledge gained from the previous attempts.
  • Repeat until successful.

True failure comes when people give up, and as Edison noted, giving up often comes at the worst time.

“Many of life’s failures are experienced by people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up,” Edison said.

My friend Fred encourages the same approach.

“The only person in this country who will stop you is you,” he said. “It’s a matter of how many times are you willing to fail and how many hours are you willing to work?”