Men Are From (Bruno) Mars

One of the hottest R&B songs of the past year is Bruno Mars’ “That’s What I Like”. The song is an upbeat, new jack, hip hop soul anthem that serenades Mars’ unnamed love interest and regales her with tales of condos in Manhattan, beach houses in Miami, shopping trips to Paris, and romantic weekends in Puerto Rico.

While this song seems to embody everything a woman would want in a man and his treatment of her, there is something peculiar in the underlying message that should give any woman pause. While at first, the theme of the song seems to be all about fulfilling every girl’s dream, Bruno helps to remind women that men really are from Mars.

Author John Gray, Ph. D informed us years ago in his book, Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, that men and women have different communication styles, and it is important for us to identify those differences to gain true understanding of the opposite sex. This holds true in helping us to understand the different ways men and women view Bruno Mars’ song, and how differently we operate in relationships.

Generally speaking, men are from (Bruno) Mars. What I mean by that is, while the song “That’s What I Like” sounds like it’s all about the woman’s happiness, Bruno tells us in the title that it’s really about “what I like”. Many men (and some women also) approach relationships from the same perspective as Bruno Mars. While unspoken, and maybe even unintentional, the mentality is, I will give you everything you want – as long as it’s what I like.

Just take a look at the words to the hook of the song:

Cool jewelry shining so bright
Strawberry champagne on ice
Lucky for you, that’s what I like, that’s what I like
Lucky for you, that’s what I like, that’s what I like

That’s right, Bruno basically says you’re only getting the jewelry and champagne because “lucky for you, that’s what I like.” The question is, would she still get the champagne and jewelry if Bruno didn’t also like those things? That means the relationship is not primarily about fulfilling the needs of the other person; it’s more about fulfilling his own desires – and taking the other person along for the ride.

This is not what true love is all about. Any time love and relationships are more about fulfilling our own desires and not attending to the needs of our partner, we have missed the essence of love in our relationships. While Bruno tells us that love is about “what I like”, the Bible tells us that love “does not insist on its own way” (1 Corinthians 13:5).

According to Bruno, love is self-serving, but according to the Bible, love is self-sacrificing. Jesus says that great love involves laying down your life for a friend (John 15:13). And when the Apostle Paul wanted to describe the kind of love that husbands should have for their wives, he said that husbands should love their wives “as Christ loved the church and [sacrificed] himself for it” (Ephesians 5:25).

While I enjoy listening to the Bruno Mars song, I have to remind myself that love is not about “What I Like” – it’s about what my spouse needs. Sometimes my likes and her needs are one and the same. However, in the times when her needs differ from my wants, I must remember that her needs trump my wants. This is a lesson that I am constantly learning – and often failing.

However, I do hope that we all learn a lesson from this song, because the reality is that while Men are from (Bruno) Mars – some women are too. Let us all seek to be self-sacrificing lovers and not self-serving lovers. I believe that’s what God likes.



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Six Essential Qualities of an Effective LEADER

Image result for effective leaderIf you were to Google the word “leader” you would find literally millions of results (15.8 million the last time I checked). Leadership is an extremely popular topic and many have sought to define what it means to be a leader. One definition of leader is “the person who commands a group, organization or country.” While many commanders have proven themselves to be effective leaders (especially in the military), I would not necessarily agree with the assessment that a leader must be a commander.

Effective leaders in today’s society are more like coaches than commanders. While commanders preach at their followers and tell them what to do, coaches teach their followers and show them what to do. There are six qualities that I have found to be essential for effective leadership today. These six qualities combine to form an acrostic for the word “LEADER”.

1. Listener

An effective leader must be a good listener. At the heart of leadership is communication. Leaders must be good communicators, but they must understand that communication is a two-way street. Many leaders are great at communicating their vision to their followers but seldom take the time to listen and receive feedback from their followers.

This quality requires leaders to be secure in themselves. Thin-skinned leaders rarely welcome feedback – especially when the feedback is critical of their leadership. Leaders are wise to remember that criticism is not the same as condemnation. If we never listen to our critics, we never learn how we can improve. Listening is a key aspect of learning. Leaders need to learn to listen…and listen to learn.

2. Encourager 

Not only should leaders listen to their followers, but they should also encourage them. Effective leaders are intentional about offering positive feedback to their followers, and, when necessary, offering encouraging ways to improve their productivity. Most leaders see themselves as the quarterback on the field leading the team to victory, but the most effective leaders are more like the person on the sideline who helps cheer the team to victory.

3. Assister

Leaders are called to lead, but leading people often means assisting them along their journey toward productivity. While many leaders look to have assistants, effective leaders look to be of assistance. Effective leaders help their followers to reach their full potential. They provide tools and training to assist them to be the most productive individuals they can be for the team or the organization.

One of the most important positions on the basketball court is that of the point guard. The point guard is often referred to as the “floor general”. His or her primary role is to facilitate the offense, manage the flow of the game, and get the ball to his/her teammates in a position for them to score. When a teammate scores on a pass from the point guard, the point guard is credited with an “assist”. Effective leaders should lead their teams/organizations in assists.

4. Developer

Effective leaders spend much of their time, energy, and resources on development – first on themselves and then on the people they lead. Leaders are lifelong learners. Which means that an effective leader is always seeking ways to further develop his or her own leadership skills and abilities. A leader who is not developing is usually leading an organization that is declining.

Effective leaders also invest in the development of the people they lead. They invest time into mentoring key followers and creating a learning culture within the organization. Effective leaders don’t just seek to add more followers, they seek to develop more leaders. Leaders should be the “chief development officers” of their organizations. They should model this by developing themselves and then duplicating themselves by mentoring others.

5. Energizer

Effective leaders bring energy to their team and their organizations. They are the catalysts that drive things forward. When a leader walks into the room he or she should not suck all the air out of it. Effective leaders should breathe fresh life into the organization when things are stagnant and motivate others to keep pressing forward.

6. Relationship-builder

Effective leaders are not just task-oriented. The take the time to build relationships with the people they lead, and, just as importantly, help their followers to build relationships with each other. Leaders are bridges that help connect the people and departments within an organization. Effective leaders tear down the silos and walls that creep up within organizations and help people stay connected.

When leaders exhibit these six essential qualities – Listener, Encourager, Assister, Developer, Energizer, and Relationship-builder – the organization is strengthened. When leaders are effective, organizations are productive. The best way a leader can improve his or her organization is to work on becoming a more effective leader.



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The Foundation of Faith

Image result for the foundation of faithQuestions are powerful. They are the primary vehicle for learning. We cannot learn if we are not willing to ask questions. Despite this, many people are raised in a religious environment where we are told not to ask questions. I’m sure many of us have heard our mother or grandmother utter the phrase, “Don’t question God” at some point in time.

However, this particular bit of “mother wit” goes contrary to what we see in scripture. Throughout the holy writ, there are numerous examples of people asking God questions. Throughout the Psalter we see psalmists asking questions like, “How long?” Nowhere in scripture can we find an example of God chastising someone for asking Him a question.

In fact, we also see numerous examples of God, Himself, asking questions to men and women. The very first such question is found in Genesis 3:9 after the Fall of Man when Adam and Eve had eaten of the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. God came down in the cool of the day and asked, “Adam, where art thou?”

Beyond that, throughout the gospels we see Jesus asking many questions of the people He came in contact with. He asked questions like, “Would you be made whole?” or “Who do you say that I am?” But the primary question Jesus often asked is, “Do you believe?”

We can ascertain from these interactions that there is come connection between questions and beliefs. Contrary to popular opinion, questions are not the enemy of belief; questions are the friends of faith. This begins with the fundamental question that mankind has asked since the beginning of time: “Does God really exist?”

The question regarding belief in God is answered emphatically in the opening line of The Apostles’ Creed – the oldest and most widely used statement of faith within the Christian Church outside of the Bible. The word creed comes from the Latin credo, which means “I believe”. The creed begins with a declarative statement regarding belief in God. It says:

“I believe in God, the Father Almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth…”

This opening statement represents the foundation of the Christian faith. The Hebrews writer states: “And without faith it is impossible to please [God], for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.” This verse, coupled with the opening line of The Apostles’ Creed shows us three fundamental components of belief in God.

1. We must believe in the CONCEPT of God.

Faith begins with the foundational belief that God exists (Heb. 11:6). The Greek word that is translated as “believe” in the New Testament is pisteuo, which means to “believe into” something or someone. There is a difference between believing IN God and merely believing ABOUT God. Belief IN God is the foundation of faith.

This belief is the complete opposite of atheism – which says that there is no God. According to Ray Pritchard, atheism is the most unnatural human philosophy because, throughout history, every culture has had some concept of a supreme being (or beings). In our shared human experience, we were all born with an innate desire to seek something greater than ourselves to help explain our existence. As one writer puts it, we are all born with a God-shaped whole in our hearts. Psalm 14:1 says, “The fool says in his [or her] heart, there is no God.” In order to avoid the foolishness of atheism, we must believe in the concept of God.

2. We must believe in the CHARACTER of God.

Faith begins with the belief that God exists, but in order to grow in our faith we must do more than merely believe in God’s existence. Hebrews 11:6 says that if we want to draw near to God we must “believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.”

Many people have an IDEA of God but have no clue about the IDENTITY of God. We often see God as The Punisher, when He is, in fact, The Rewarder. God does not exist to punish us every time we step out of line. He is not sitting in heaven waiting to cast a lightning bolt at us for our every failure or shortcoming. He desires to reward us – it is His character.

God does not love us because of us. God loves us because of God. It is His nature – His character – to love us. After all, I John 4:8 tells us that “God is love.” When we believe in His character, we have a greater understanding of His love for us.

3. We must believe in the CREATING power of God.

The Apostles’ Creed affirms the CONCEPT and CHARACTER of God, but it also acknowledges God as our CREATOR. The Christian worldview is centered in the truth that God created the world. The very first verse of the Bible (Genesis 1:1) establishes this when it says, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” Hebrews 11:3 says, “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God.”

When we believe that God is our creator, we also inherently believe something about ourselves. If God is my creator, then that means that I am a part of the intentional plan of God. If God created me then He has a plan for me. I am not a mistake. I am not here by happenstance. Regardless of the circumstances surrounding my birth, I am here because God chose to create me, and God does not make mistakes.

We are not the product of an explosion or the process of evolution. We were all “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14). In the words of Pope Benedixt XVI, “We are not the casual and meaningless product of evolution. Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary.”

It is important for us to believe in God, but it also important for us to realize that God believe in us. He believes in us and has plans for us – plans to prosper us and to give us a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11). His plans are built on the foundation of our faith. We can only achieve if we first believe!

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