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It’s Your Call

May 9, 2006

It’s Your Call

 

As flames creep up the walls of the church the first contact we think about is the fire department. If an attendee on the front pew falls to the floor in the midst of your riveting sermon 911 quickly pops into your thinking. A plea for urgent help can be found at 911 … a person who will react quickly and let us know help is on the way! The call takes the direct pressure off having to always know how to handle crisis situations.

 

Yet when spiritual trouble raises concerns why are we so slow in making a call to seek God’s wisdom and help! Hesitation may cause the situation to worsen and the challenge to become a full-blown crisis.

 

Perhaps it a leader’s human nature to try and fix the problem themselves but more likely we don’t have God’s number all that handy. It is said in crisis is where our character is revealed. Perhaps it is also where our faith is reflected. Do we really believe He is there and can provide us with ways to handle our situations? Are we willing to trust in His plan rather than our own understanding? Are we willing to push through and exercise our spiritual muscles to gain strength and endurance? Do we believe He is there in the midst of trouble to assure us He is indeed in control and that He orders our steps? Can even God handle these precious people we lead?

 

Taking a spectator view can cause doubt and fear to rise up and eventually threaten to choke out the “heir” we have available to us as Christian leaders.

 

God says in the midst of your trouble I will be there. Call on me and I will deliver you. Seek and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened. It is up to us to keep His number handy and use it often.

 

When trouble begins to flood its way up to the level of the pulpit and cause interference in your leadership lifeline this acrostic may be of some help:

 

T – temptation

R – repentance

O – obedience

U – understanding

B – boldness

L – look

E – empowered

 

Don’t be TEMPTED to accept defeat. Have a heart of REPENTANCE and ask God to strengthen your faith. Walk in OBEDIENCE to His Word. UNDERSTAND what you are up against and the consequences of allowing the enemy to gain any foothold. Be BOLD in your declaration that God has given you victory. LOOK to God for answers and wisdom then be EMPOWERED through the Spirit that is in you.

 

Trouble can become your vehicle in which you journey from weakness and doubt to strength and wisdom. Quicker than an ambulance can reach life saving equipment God can begin to breathe into the situation new life and recover that which was threatened to be lost.  Know the victory has already been won. He is there ready and willing to change your obstacles into opportunities.

  He has called you to be a leader you must accept the challenge …IT’S YOUR CALL

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A Leader Of Substance

May 8, 2006

Pastor Bob was becoming increasingly aware his body was not functioning properly. He was tired and worn before he ever arrived at the office. Fear gripped him as he began to scour the internet looking for answers to his malady. As he jumped into the information pool of opinion and knowledge his stomach tightened as he read the sobering statistics on colon cancer, digestive diseases and stomach disorders. As he searched the side effects worsened. Determined to correct the problem he ordered the newest online studies. He ran to the local bookstore and grabbed everything he could on the subject and spent countless hours digesting the latest material. The one morning his wife had an epiphany. The next morning she completely determined to add more substance to their daily diet. She dug out her dusty mixing bowl and created a healthy muffin recipe. Although her husband hated anything with a crunch she peppered their meals with colorful and interesting veggies. They began to drink cool purified water replacing them the empty and destructive alternatives they grew accustomed to. The moral of this story is that the body functions properly when their is adequate substance. Applying this principle in a spiritual sense for leaders tells us substance is crucial to helping the body of Believers function properly. In our role as a leader we are called to maintain a healthy system. While our focus can easily be turned to the newest book, latest seminar or unique twist on how to lead we must remember it is it is substance most important to a functioning body. God’s Word is our substance and our truth.    

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A Can Of Worms

May 8, 2006

Just recently I suggested to a fellow leader he attempt to write a book talking about when marriage and ministry collide. And why not? Here is a man, a Christian leader who gave his time, energy and yes his life to traveling, writing and speaking. In his attempt to save marriages around the world he lost his own. How could this happen? Was his ministry ever God ordained? Did he indeed deliver to tens of thousands of people God's design for a strong Biblical marriage? If so how could he have fallen from grace in the eyes of those he served and lose the very thing he preached of? A leader is always regarded in the eyes of those who follow him as indestructible, knowing all the answers, protected from ever facing that which he tries to save. Yet leaders are but people who have an irresistible urge and passion to share their knowledge with others. Are they immune from common malady and suffering? From such a book project publishers will run and shun deeming it would open a can of worms. Perhaps with the growing statistics on divorce in the Christian leaders home it is time to open the can of worms and allow them to be released in order to fertilize the good ground God has called us to walk on. How does a leader deal with disappointment in his own life and marriage? Where do they go for sound counsel? What are the warning signs of a marriage in trouble? Can a leader effectively come back as a new and stronger man to lead the troops? Is he then defective or wiser? What do their choices mean to their personal walk with God, their children their followers? The enemy slithers into the everyday situations and schedule of every passionate leader. Holding down the lid of the can and refusing to look at what is inside may cause emotional, physical and spiritual exhaustion … a place from which true leadership gets trapped in the cold and darkness.  In the quietness of the can nothing may be solved, no solutions offered and in the darkness we forget the brilliant light on the other side. Tremendous strength and pressure will keep the can tightly closed. Truth is, leaders are just people where because of their unique position in the frontlines can be hit first and hardest. Sometimes the real enemy is not what we see ahead of us but stands behind where we cannot see. Everyday a leader must be fitted with the right armor, strategies and plan …for you can be sure he will be fired upon first. As Christian leaders our time must not be consumed on friendly fire but arm ourselves for the ensuing battle.  Our troops depend on us.   

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Trust is a funny thing

May 6, 2006

Trust is a funny thing. We climb into our vehicle and travel at 70 MPH alongside several hundred other travelers with less concern about getting to our destination that finding our favorite radio station. We hop on an elevator and whistle our way up 30 floors. We lunch from restaurants without ever seeing the condition of the kitchen, drink water from sources unknown and form relationships with people we hardly know. All this with little thought. But trust in God. That we find difficult!

As leaders we move toward our vision and goals as long as we can follow the strategies we have laid out on paper. As long as things go according to plan and within our scope of understanding we forge ahead. If our journey takes longer than expected or comes to a tricky turn on the road we can be tempted to be stopped dead in our tracks.

Here we demand proof that He exists while ignoring the intricacies of creation. We insist on hearing his voice without ever listening to our innermost being. We say we cannot see Him while our focus is glued elsewhere. We say we cannot understand Him yet are marveled by the latest bump in technology.

In psychologist offices those with trust issues are asked to close their eyes and fall backward into arms that will catch and protect them. Perhaps this act of total abandonment would be a worthwhile spiritual practice as well. God calls us to totally abandon our minor issues and learn to trust whatever the circumstances of the day. He assures us if He sadi it He will do it.

Leaders must never choose to stay on shore when they ahve been called to navigate the boat.

"The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reasons for remaining ashore.
Vincent Van Gogh."
We may as well accept trust challenges as a fact of life and not be shocked or feel picked on when they come. God brings them to build our faith, prove us genuine, and afford Him endless excuses to reward us. He delights in nothing more than our choice to believe Him over what we see and feel. Our ultimate purpose for existence is to please God; therefore, if we don't exercise faith and trust, we will never fulfill our reason for being.

God is for us. Even His commands are for our safety, liberty, and blessing. Yes, He calls us to surrender our own agendas on the altar of His will, but Romans 12:2 reminds us that God's will is good, pleasing, and perfectly suited for us. Ultimately, the biggest sacrifices of our lives will have been the times we chose our own way and forfeited His pleasing will for us.

React to the Word

After delivering the Law to Moses, God told him to command and encourage the people "to observe the Lord's commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good" (Deuteronomy 10:13. God's commands are always for our good.

Reason with Your Heart

What have you ever sacrificed by choosing your own way rather than God's? Satan will try to persuade you toward unbelief and disobedience. Not just people in general, but personal attacks on you spiritually, emotionally, physically and financially.

"He gave them their request, but sent leanness into their soul" (Psalm 106:15).

Respond with Prayer

Show me Your ways, O Lord, and teach me Your paths. Guide me in Your truth and teach me, for You are God my Savior, and my hope is in You all day long (Psalm 25:4–5). Remind me of the benefits that come from believing You and the losses that result from unbelief…

"I trust that you will discover that we have not failed the test" (2 Corinthians 13:6).

Ask the Almighty God to take the concerns of your heart and bring peace to your soul and daily guidance to your steps. When fear or uncertainty threatens to overtake your heart, remind yourself where you live. Ask God to help you rest your worried mind. Ask Him to be the fortress around your heart, giving you peace in place of anxiousness. Ask Him to help you simply trust Him to hold you steady.

God,
Thank You that I can know You in a personal way. Forgive me for the times when I keep You at a distance and worry my way through my day. Thank You for Your offer of a dwelling place, a safe place to bring my heart. Today I want to feel Your presence with me. I ask You to shelter my heart and bring rest to my mind. Give me wisdom and guidance in the things that I can change in my life. Help me to trust You to keep me sheltered and calm in the things I have no control over. Help me to rest here today. You are my Almighty God, and I trust you with my life

"You greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith — of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire — may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed" (1 Peter 1:6–5).

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Rubicon Moments

May 1, 2006

Rubicon Moments

As a leader you may be teetering today in a place sometimes referred to as rubicon. Rubicon is a limit that when passed or exceeded, permits a place of no return and typically results in irrevocable commitment.

In your calling you have launched into your vision and are working to accomplish your assignment. In climbing toward your journey you most assuredly be met with falling obstacles such as resistance, weariness, betrayal, apathy of your climbing partners or doubt and cloudy conditions in which you are unable to see your progress.

 You may be stalled looking back from where you began and unable to see the top of the mountain. From this position it is easy to hang on desperately to the comfortable for fear continuing may be too difficult a task! Looking back should not bring fear and dread but be the map of how far you have actually come. Looking ahead should not be intimidating, but a signpost of how far you have come and assurance you are headed in the right direction. In fact at mid stage is the perfect place to re evaluate your destination and move into “V1”. 

If you were inside the cockpit of a departing airplane, just as it took off from the runway you would hear the copilot or captain call out, "V1." This phrase represents the "point of no return."As the airplane accelerates toward the end of the runway, the pilot must decide if the plane is moving fast enough for a safe takeoff. This speed must be determined preflight based on several factors, including the air pressure, temperature, speed of the wind, and weight of the aircraft.

The pilot maintains a hold on the throttle as the plane approaches the V1 speed, so that he or she can abort the takeoff if something goes wrong. However, after V1, the plane must take off.

There is a pivotal point in the life of every leader where hesitation can become a roadblock. Here you must tune out the realities of the world and tune into the voice of God. In Him there are no blind spots.

The late Ray Charles learned to compensate for his blindness by learning to hear what others could not—a skill that would contribute to his musical talent.

As a 10-year-old boy, Ray entered his home and tripped over a rocking chair. He falls, cries out in pain, and calls to his mother for help. His mother instinctively steps forward, but then stops herself, quietly steps back, and returns to her work. Ray, lying on the floor, continues to cry for his mother's help.

Believing he is alone, Ray is forced to listen more carefully for help. First he hears men chattering outside and a hen clucking. He stops crying, turns his head, and slowly gets up. He hears more people talking, a cow mooing, and metal clanking. He turns his head in the direction of a kettle of boiling water.

Stretching out his arms, he walks toward a crackling fireplace and feels its heat, pulling back his hand when it comes too close. His mother watches him carefully, concerned with his every move. Ray listens intently as a horse and carriage go by. He then hears a cheeping grasshopper close by and walks toward it. He bends down and, fumbling a bit, encloses his hands around the grasshopper. Smiling, he picks it up and puts it to his ear. His mother is taken aback and gives a low gasp.

"I hear you, Mama. You're right there," Ray says.

His mother now has tears streaming down her face. She tells him, "Yes, yes, I am." She kneels in front of Ray and embraces him.

Our assignment will be the runway from which many will move from their rubicon moments to their greatest victories. Hebrews 13:7 “Remember your leaders who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

In the rubicon moments of our leadership we cannot mistake God's silence for his absence. God is always with us, watching our discoveries, and celebrating our growth. We must have a V1 commitment to our personal God-given assignment. In placing our faith in Christ alone, we have reached the point of no return. We need to adjust our "attitude," listen in the quietness for God’s unmistakable voice, apply full throttle and take off.

  

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Backside of Desert, Part 1

April 28, 2006

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On The Sidelines

My life has been peppered with the privilege of circling the lives, homes and hearts of men and women whose callings have taken them around the world sporting their colorful charismatic approaches to spreading the Good News of the gospel.

Most leaders are driven by their true desire to fulfill what they believe God has called them to do. However being driven simply by calling can cause some problems down the ministry highway. In times of success or perhaps popularity, we as leaders run hard to be all things to all people pouring out our resources into the never ending empty cups which stand in never ending lines before us. We accept the “curse of the capable” taking on the continual opportunity to use our gifts. The more we are depended upon the more dependable we try and become. Abruptly, our calling may be challenged when our journey takes us through curves in the path we weren’t prepared for such as disapproval, criticism, unfair decisions, health problems or relationships woes. We may find ourselves sweeping from our mental closet the nagging feelings of weariness and growing resentment of the lack of God’s concern.

Natural giftings and abilities no longer seem enough and the emptiness we have witnessed in the eyes of others is suddenly reflected in our own. Did we miss God’s leading? Did we veer from the path of blessing because of bad decisions, poor judgment, and secret sin? Is it because of the incompetence, selfishness or lack of character in the people we have tried to serve? Usually this is the one we assume is true! When faced with disappointment often there is a deeper reason for our predicament. Leaders may find themselves camping in a place of loneliness, bareness and weariness, often known as the “Back side of the Dessert.” Here they find themselves questioning God, themselves and others. Perhaps you have experienced the “Back side of the desert?” If so don’t give up, in fact — take heart. This may be the very place God will bring you His revelation to empower your ministry beyond the goals and dreams you had set for your life!

Moses was a great example of a true leader. For 40 years Moses was spared from the pain and mistreatment his people were experiencing. Raised in the Pharaoh’s home he received honor and power. Once seeing the condition of his people his position took a drastic turn causing his position to dissipate. Ripped from his comfort zone Moses retreated to a desolate place and humbly accepted a position, far below his capability, to watch over his father’s flocks. Can you imagine the questions Moses must have been asking himself during the days of sheep watching? Why God? What have I missed? What happened? Funny thing about down times, in the quietness of the moment often thoughts are unscrambled, priorities reassembled and voices clearly heard.

There in the stillness, in the most illogical place, a miracle happened. Not in the probable place but the improbable. On the backside of the desert Moses met God and God revealed Moses’ personal assignment. Here, Moses made a personal choice. As the bush began to burn with the Spirit of God, Moses chose to leave what he was doing and turn toward God. Ex.3:3-4 (NIV) tells us, “I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush does not burn.’ So when the Lord saw that he turned aside to look, God called him to him from the midst of the bush.” Not until Moses decided to turn toward the presence of God did God reveal himself.

Surrounded with familiar duties, stressful schedules any leader can be tempted to live on yesterday’s plans and goals yet God is new every morning. He reveals himself in new ways not always logical to us. Although landing in the Backside of the Desert can be abrupt it is usually a self-detour of taking a familiar logical daily path not pausing long enough for new revelation. It is in allowing others to be the fuel and vehicle rather than total dependence on God alone. God’s assignment will not change. He gives us gifts and abilities to carry out our passions. He gives wisdom, insight and new direction therefore we make time to sit in his presence. He orders our steps therefore we depend on His ability.

If things change we don’t have to go into full panic mode as He sees success as what it will become not as it is. Faithfully seek, serve and surrender for in the quiet time His voice is unmistakable.

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Don’t Miss Your Appointment

March 28, 2006

VisionLeaders become so because of a passionate pursuit of a God- given vision and assignment. It is our God- given appointment. God designs it, ordains it and entrusts us to carrying it out. As leaders we are to stand in the front lines and lead the troops. There are times when this is easy and times our faith in ourselves, others and in God may be in question! Is it any wonder that the enemy sets traps to try and throw us off our path to success? A strong and unmovable leader leads the path to success.

Long ago, there lived an officer of the Royal Navy named Captain Bravado. He was a manly man's man, who showed no fear when facing his enemies. One day, while sailing the Seven Seas, his lookout spotted a pirate ship approaching, and the crew became frantic. Captain Bravado bellowed, "Bring me my red shirt!"

The first mate quickly retrieved the captain's red shirt, and while wearing the brightly colored frock, the Captain led his crew into battle and defeated the pirates. That evening, all the men sat around on the deck recounting the day's triumph. One of them asked the Captain, "Sir, why did you call for your red shirt before battle?"

The captain replied, "If I were to be wounded in the attack, the shirt would not show my blood. Thus, you men would continue to fight, unafraid." All of the men sat and marveled at the courage of such a manly man's man.

As dawn came the next morning, the lookout spotted not one, not two, but TEN pirate ships approaching. The crew stared in worshipful silence at the captain and waited for his usual orders. Captain Bravado filled with disappointment gazed with steely eyes upon the vast armada arrayed against his ship, and without fear and turned and calmly shouted, "Get me my brown pants!"

Disappointment happens! It may come in to form of a personal weakness or in the failure of those who are called to follow. The enemy will always try and steal our success if he can catch us unaware and unprepared.

One of the greatest traps that can lead to defeat is getting slammed head-on by disappointment. It can happen unexpectedly or slowly over a period of time but every leader will one-day face glaring disappointment of some nature! The word disappointment needs to be understood. Appointment is our assignment; a place we have been personally called to. ‘DIS’ means to cut off or separate from. Disappointment is then a place we either choose to become separated from our purpose and wander in sadness or gain a new stronger foothold for the race ahead!

Elijah was a perfect example of being blindsided by disappointment. Elijah’s heart was on fire for God. He was an aggressive leader who witnessed God’s miracles and super natural favor. He was popular among the people revered as a great prophet. On the heels of one of his greatest victories as he literally ran the 23 miles home, the air was squeezed out of his Reeboks as he learned Jezebel threatened to have his head hanging on the city gates by morning! He made a determined detour finding himself alone and depleted slumped under a broom tree.

I love the fact scripture tells us how God ministered to Elijah. In powerful displays of nature God moved all around the prophet. Yet as the stillness followed and the quiet enveloped Elijah, God showed His powerful ability to intimately refresh his servant. Once Elijah was reminded and renewed in relationship, God asked a direct and potent question, Elijah how did you get here? God was asking Elijah to determine how he had gotten to this place of utter disappointment in himself, others and in God?

In Himself
He was human and would feel the emotions connected with rejection.
He may have looked more towards his own abilities than God’s plan.
He may have had false expectations of success.

In Others
He thought his victories would automatically insure his popularity.
All people should have seen him as a great man of God.
He may have forgotten life isn’t fair and people aren’t always just.

In God
Where was God after all?
God should have protected him after all he was busy doing God’s work.
Why would God not remove these evil people who came against him?

Disappointments happen in the life of every leader. That moment we face personal failure or face the wrath of those we feel should revere us. Even those times we feel God has moved away and allowed us to fall into unfair circumstance.

At this pivotal point we find ourselves under our own personal broom tree – a place we have run to hide from the sting of disappointment. Like Elijah we can choose to sit alone and rejected or rediscover our God given reasons for leadership!

Although we sometimes create our own personal disappointments God is not shocked. He knows us intimately. He understands our weaknesses. He knows our thoughts, frustrations and tendencies. He is not caught by surprise when people come against us or betray us. He doesn’t give up on them when they can’t always see the greater goal. He is not hindered by rejection. He stands ready to turn disappointments into miracles.

The broom tree experience helps us all as leaders to re examine our motives and reintroduce ourselves to the intimate love of the Father – the bottom line reason we are trying to fulfill the vision given us.

It was under the broom tree Elijah gained a new and more powerful ministry than he had ever known. As he renewed his faith he left the broom tree behind. From this experience he went on to do more than he could have ever imagined in fulfilling the appointment God had planned for him.

For those of us called to be leaders we know all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28) If we walk according to His purpose no one or no situation will win over us (Romans 8:31).

We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. We can be persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

These verses remind us there are only two things we need in order to succeed. One, we must be convinced God is the source of our appointment and keep our faith and trust in Him. In this we move bravely from the ranks of the follower to the position of a true leader.

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader." John Quincy Adams (1767-1848)

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