Developing Great Commission Leaders

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Hurdles vs Obstacles

“What’s in a word?” some might ask. For me, everything.

I love words. They are filled with shades meaning and nuance which sometimes our American English fails to express. Germans have “kummerspeck” which refers to the weight gain from emotional overeating. What a vivid description. When I read the Bible I like to look up pivotal words in the original languages (Hebrew or Greek) because the passages take on deeper, richer life when I understand what the words actually mean. (Posts on my favorite words to come…)

I’ve run into a few tough spots this week. I usually refer to them as “obstacles” because there’s a fight and struggle to overcome them. But now I think “hurdles” might be a better word to use.

Hurdles can be low or high, so I’m not diminishing the challenge by using a different word. But I’ve seen runners leap over hurdles. When I imagine it, I see not only a runner on the track, but I also envision a train or subway hurdling down the track. That implies speed, heft and significance.

Reframing from “obstacles” to “hurdles” also offers me hope. Hope that the end is near. Hope that the exertion is worth it. Hope of a medal, a rest, a celebration at the end.

What motivates you to push through challenges? Which word appeals to you more: obstacle or hurdle?

5 Ways My Toddler Makes Me A Better Leader

Long before becoming a parent I recognized that one of the great crucibles for character and leader development was caring for children, especially young children.

I watched smart, gifted, talented people get swallowed up in the great abyss of late night feedings, potty training and temper tantrums. They learned practical leadership through serving their children.

Now that I’ve joined the thriving-though-sleep-deprived ranks, here are a few of my observations on how my toddler is helping me grow as a leader:

Hugs and snugs: parenting perks.

Hugs and Snugs: parenting perks

1.  Eye Contact: “Eyes on Mommy.”

Toddlers experience the world through all of their senses, all the time. But sometimes that can feel overwhelming or distracting. So when my daughter starts to melt down, we make time for eye contact.

Turning your face towards someone when they speak demonstrates respect, care and interest in what they have to say. It shows that they are valuable and important enough to interrupt your project, and it emphasizes that the conversation is more important than a myriad of distractions.

2.   Slow down: “Take a belly breath.”

Toddlers learn constantly and practice independence. In the effort to “do it myself,” frustration can overtake them.

At work it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by looming deadlines. But sometimes the best remedy is a deep breath and a step back for perspective. Then you can collect your thoughts, put on your thinking cap and consider other solutions.

3.   Listen: “Where are your listening ears?”

With emotions and new information assaulting their little minds all the time, toddlers have a hard time focusing on tasks and directions as they learn to make good decisions.

When leading others, it’s imperative to hear beyond the syntax into the heart of the matter. What’s the message behind the words? The natural default is to “tell” versus hearing people out. When we do that, we focus on crafting a response rather than listening to what someone else says. And that tends to shut down communication. So let’s put on our listening ears.

4.   Compassion: “That sounds like an owie!”

Bumps and bruises are a natural part of a toddler’s life. Snuggling together through the tears then kissing away the boo-boos makes a huge difference to the emotional health of a little one.

Sometimes a hug is the best remedy for an owie, and while that might not be appropriate in the workplace, you can empathize and put yourself in someone else’s shoes. People aren’t always looking to others to solve their problems; sometimes they just want to know they are cared for.

5.   Simplify: Set Realistic Goals. “What is our adventure today?”

Cramming too many activities into a day can make both parent and toddler miserable, especially when naps are missed. So we limit our daily activities to help ensure happy hearts at home.

Simplifying objectives and embracing reality can result in freedom at work. What is the top priority for the week? What one thing must be done today? What pace can we set at work that is sustainable long term?


Sarah has learned these and other great leadership lessons in the daily squeeze of parenting. She lives in New York City with her husband and 2.5 year old daughter. She is a leadership coach and an infrequent blogger.

Photo courtesy of the author’s private collection.


Heidelberg Catechism: Lord’s Day #7

Part 2: Deliverance (Q&A 12-85)

Q20. Are all people then saved through Christ just as they were lost through Adam?
A20. No.
Only those are saved who through true faith are grafted into Christ and accept all his benefits (1).

1) Matthew 7:14; John 3:16, 18, 36; Romans 11:16-21

Q21. What is true faith?
A21. True faith is not only a sure knowledge by which I hold as true all that God has revealed to us in Scripture (1); it is also a wholehearted trust (2), which the Holy Spirit creates in me (3) by the gospel (4), that God has freely granted, not only to others but to me also (5), forgiveness of sins, eternal righteousness, and salvation (6). These are gifts of sheer grace, granted solely by Christ’s merit (7).

1) John 17:3, 17; Hebrews 11:1-3; James 2:19
2) Romans 4:18-21; 5:1; 10:10; Hebrews 4:14-16
3) Matthew  16:15-17; John 3:5; Acts 16:14
4) Romans 1:16; 10:17; 1 Corinthians 1:21
5) Galatians 2:20
6) Romans 1:17; Hebrwes 10:10
7) Romans 3:21-26; Galatians 2:16; Ephesians 2:8-10

Q22. What then must a Christian believe?
A22. All that is promised us int eh gospel (1), a summary of which is taught us in the articles of our universal and undisputed Christian faith.

1) Matthew 28:18-20; John 20:30-31

Q23. What are those articles?
A23. I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried; he descended into hell. The third day he rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty. From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.

(This is part of a yearlong Sunday series reposting the 52 readings of the Heidelberg Catechism)

Heidelberg Catechism: Lord’s Day #6

Part 2: Deliverance (Q&A 12-85)

Q16. Why must the mediator be a true and righteous human?
A16. God’s justice demands that human nature, which has sinned, must pay for sin; (1) but a sinful human could never pay for others. (2)

1) Romans 5:12, 15; 1 Corinthians 15:21; Hebrews 2:14-16
2)Hebrews 7:26-27; 1 Peter 3:18

Q17. Why must the mediator also be true God?
A17. So that the mediator, by the power of his divinity, might bear the weight of God’s wrath in his humanity and earn for us and restore to us righteousness and life. (1)

1) Isaiah 53; John 3:16; 2 Corinithans 5:21

Q18. Then who is this mediator –  true God and at the same time a true and righteous human?
A18. Our Lord Jesus Christ, (1) who was given to us to completely deliver us and make us right with God. (2)

1) Matthew 1:21-22; Luke 2:11; 1 Timothy 2:5
2) 1 Corinthians 1:30

Q19. How do you come to know this?
A19. The holy gospel tells me. God began to reveal the gospel already in Paradise; (1) later God proclaimed it by the holy patriarchs (2) and prophets (3) and foreshadowed it by the sacrifices and other ceremonies of the law; (4) and finally God fulfilled it through his own beloved son. (5)

1) Genesis 3:15
2) Genesis 22:18; 49:10
3) Isaiah 53; Jeremiah 23:5-6; Micah 7:18-20; Acts 10:43; Hebrews 1:1-2
4) Leviticus 1-7; John 5:46; Hebrews 10:1-10
5) Romans 10:4; Galatians 4:4-5; Colossians 2:17

(This is part of a yearlong Sunday series reposting the 52 readings of the Heidelberg Catechism)

Heidelberg Catechism: Lord’s Day #5

Part 2: Deliverance (Q&A 12-85)

Q12. According to God’s righteous judgment
we deserve punishment
both now and in eternity:
how then can we escape this punishment
and return to God’s favor?

A12. God requires that his justice be satisfied.1
Therefore the claims of this justice
must be paid in full,
either by ourselves or by another.2

Ex. 23:7Rom. 2:1-11
Isa. 53:11Rom. 8:3-4


Q13. Can we make this payment ourselves?

A13. Certainly not.
Actually, we increase our debt every day.1

Matt. 6:12Rom. 2:4-5

Q14. Can another creature—any at all—
pay this debt for us?

A14. No.
To begin with,

God will not punish any other creature
for what a human is guilty of.1


no mere creature can bear the weight
of God’s eternal wrath against sin
and deliver others from it.2

Ezek. 18:4, 20Heb. 2:14-18
Ps. 49:7-9130:3

Q15. What kind of mediator and deliverer
should we look for then?

A15. One who is a true1 and righteous2 human,

yet more powerful than all creatures,
that is, one who is also true God.3

Rom. 1:31 Cor. 15:21Heb. 2:17
Isa. 53:92 Cor. 5:21Heb. 7:26
Isa. 7:149:6Jer. 23:6John 1:1

(This is part of a yearlong Sunday series reposting the 52 readings of the Heidelberg Catechism)

Heidelberg Catechism: Lord’s Day #4

Part 1: Misery (Q&A 3-11)

Q9. But doesn’t God do us an injustice by requiring in his law what we are unable to do?
A9. No, God created human beings with the ability to keep the law. (1)
They, however, provoked by the devil, (2)
in willful disobedience, (3)
robbed themselves and all their descendants of these gifts. (4)

1 Gen. 1:31; Eph. 4:24
2 Gen. 3:13; John 8:44
3 Gen. 3:6
4 Rom. 5:12, 18, 19
Q10. Does God permit such disobedience and rebellion to go unpunished?
A10. Certainly not.
God is terribly angry
with the sin we are born with
as well as the sins we personally commit.

As a just judge,
God will punish them both now and in eternity, (1)
having declared:
“Cursed is everyone who does not observe and obey
all the things written in the book of the law.” (2)

1 Ex. 34:7; Ps. 5:4-6; Nah. 1:2; Rom. 1:18; Eph. 5:6; Heb. 9:27
2 Gal. 3:10; Deut. 27:26
Q11. But isn’t God also merciful?
A11. God is certainly merciful, (1)
but also just. (2)
God’s justice demands
that sin, committed against his supreme majesty,
be punished with the supreme penalty—
eternal punishment of body and soul. (3)

1 Ex. 34:6-7; Ps. 103:8-9
2 Ex. 34:7; Deut. 7:9-11; Ps. 5:4-6; Heb. 10:30-31
3 Matt. 25:35-46

(This is part of a yearlong Sunday series reposting the 52 readings of the Heidelberg Catechism)

Heidelberg Catechism: Lord’s Day #3

Part 1: Misery (Q&A 3-11)

Q6. Did God create people so wicked and perverse?
A6. No.
God created them good (1) and in his own image, (2)
that is, in true righteousness and holiness, (3)
so that they might
truly know God their creator, (4)
love him with all their heart,
and live with God in eternal happiness,
to praise and glorify him. (5)

1 Gen. 1:31
2 Gen. 1:26-27
3 Eph. 4:24
4 Col. 3:10
5 Ps. 8

Q7. Then where does this corrupt human nature come from?
A7. The fall and disobedience of our first parents,
Adam and Eve, in Paradise. (1)
This fall has so poisoned our nature (2)
that we are all conceived and born in a sinful condition. (3)

1 Gen. 3
2 Rom. 5:12, 18-19
3 Ps. 51:5

Q8. But are we so corrupt that we are totally unable to do any good and inclined toward all evil?
A8. Yes, (1) unless we are born again
by the Spirit of God. (2)

1 Gen. 6:5; 8:21; Job 14:4; Isa. 53:6
2 John 3:3-5

(This is part of a yearlong Sunday series reposting the 52 readings of the Heidelberg Catechism)

Heidelberg Catechism: Lord’s Day #2

Part 1: Misery (Q&A 3-11)

Q3. How do you come to know your misery?
A3. The law of God tells me. (1)

1 Rom. 3:20; 7:7-25

Q4. What does God’s law require of us?
A4. Christ teaches us this in summary in Matthew 22:37-40:

“‘You shall love the Lord your God
with all your heart,
and with all your soul,
and with all your mind.’ (1)
This is the greatest and first commandment.

“And a second is like it:
‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ (2)

“On these two commandments hang
all the law and the prophets.”

1 Deut. 6:5
2 Lev. 19:18

Q5. Can you live up to all this perfectly?
A5. No. (1)
I have a natural tendency
to hate God and my neighbor. (2)

1 Rom. 3:9-20, 23; 1 John 1:8, 10
2 Gen. 6:5; Jer. 17:9; Rom. 7:23-24; 8:7; Eph. 2:1-3; Titus 3:3

(This is part of a yearlong Sunday series reposting the 52 readings of the Heidelberg Catechism)