Warning Markers – Danger!

This passage spoke to me this morning…perhaps it will speak to you also:

Remember our history, friends, and be warned. All our ancestors were led by the providential Cloud and taken miraculously through the Sea. They went through the waters, in a baptism like ours, as Moses led them from enslaving death to salvation life. They all ate and drank identical food and drink, meals provided daily by God. They drank from the Rock, God’s fountain for them that stayed with them wherever they were. And the Rock was Christ. But just experiencing God’s wonder and grace didn’t seem to mean much—most of them were defeated by temptation during the hard times in the desert, and God was not pleased.

The same thing could happen to us. We must be on guard so that we never get caught up in wanting our own way as they did. And we must not turn our religion into a circus as they did—”First the people partied, then they threw a dance.” We must not be sexually promiscuous—they paid for that, remember, with 23,000 deaths in one day! We must never try to get Christ to serve us instead of us serving him; they tried it, and God launched an epidemic of poisonous snakes. We must be careful not to stir up discontent; discontent destroyed them.

These are all warning markers—danger!—in our history books, written down so that we don’t repeat their mistakes. Our positions in the story are parallel—they at the beginning, we at the end—and we are just as capable of messing it up as they were. Don’t be so naive and self-confident. You’re not exempt. You could fall flat on your face as easily as anyone else. Forget about self-confidence; it’s useless. Cultivate God-confidence. No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; he’ll always be there to help you come through it. So, my very dear friends, when you see people reducing God to something they can use or control, get out of their company as fast as you can. 1 Corinthians 10:1-14 (The Message Version…emphasis mine.)

I consider the world we live in today and it was much like those days in Corinth.  There are many options for immoral failure.  Finding trouble these days is not hard to do.  We must be on guard, because history teaches us that we can easily fall prey to temptation if we allow ourselves to become desensitized. I think Paul is saying to the Corinthians, “You see the immoral culture around you.  You don’t have to participate.  You can choose to be different.  You have the ability to flee temptation.”  I believe we can love the people of the culture without falling into the sins of the day.  It’s a challenge, one that I struggle with daily, but one that is made possible by Christ’s power working in us.

What do you think?

What Is Your Leadership Capacity?

What is your leadership capacity?  Do you know when you are in over your head?

I am using the term leadership capacity to describe a leader’s ability to effectively lead his or her organization to accomplish the vision of the organization.  Consequently a leader exceeds his or her leadership capacity when he or she no longer has the ability to effectively manage or lead the organization to reach its potential.  If the organization is growing there will most likely be a time in the leader’s tenure where he or she feels they have reached or exceeded this capacity.

I met with a great leader recently in a new venture that admitted he is overwhelmed with what is happening around him.  He is feeling the weight of leading out of his normal capacity and concerned the organization could get away from him unless he does something now.  I know the feeling and I appreciate this leader recognizing this about his leadership.  That realization is like an insurance policy against his leadership failing.

If you are leading an organization and you feel you are reaching your leadership capacity, consider these steps:

Recognize and admit – Do not be afraid to admit you are over your head. Humility is actually an attractive leadership quality.

Re-evaluate – Are you trying to do too much? Are you standards for yourself too high?  Do you need to reorganize your role or the organization?

Ask for help – Seek wisdom from those who have led longer than you. Find a mentor. Take a class.  Join a network.  One of the values of social media for me has been the insight I have learned from other leaders.

Delegate – Ask yourself what responsibility you could give away or what areas others on your team would be better able to handle. If you are the only team member, seek volunteers to help you bridge the gaps between your leadership ability and the demands of the organization.

Quit if needed
– If you value the organization’s vision enough then be willing to step aside if you are no longer a good fit to lead it. This is not a sign of failure or an indication that you are a bad leader.  Sometimes the organization simply grows in another direction from our passion, skills or strengths as a leader.  (I wrote a similar post about this subject HERE.)

Leaders, is your leadership capacity being stretched?  What are you going to do about it?

Accommodating Versus Ignoring Criticism

In any leadership position the leader will receive criticism at some point.  It is virtually impossible to do everything in a way that pleases everyone.  Even Jesus had critics.  It comes with the territory of leadership.

As a leader, I have learned that there are times with the criticism is dead-on and something I need to hear and other times when I need to dismiss it and continue in the direction I feel God has led me to go.  Knowing when to accommodate the critic and when to ignore the criticism is a careful balance leaders face often.  If I give into every critic I will never complete the mission God has called me to do.  If I never listen to critics I will become arrogant and prideful.

Here are some principles I try to remember so I can balance the two extremes:

Learn something from everything – There is usually something that can be learned even from the harshest criticism, if nothing more than better understanding people.

My ultimate calling is to honor and obey Christ – I try to make sure I am pleasing Him above everyone else.

Find my affirmation in the people to whom God has called me to minister – This is a new principle for me, but one I wrote about HERE.

Consider the person offering criticism – A person with a sincere heart for the Kingdom, my ministry and me personally carries a lot more weight with me.

Be willing to humble myself – The fact is I could be wrong and others could be right.  If criticism is warranted I must be willing to alter my position.

Leaders, how do you handle criticism?

Coming Home To God (Thoughts for a Prodigal)

iStock_000003359196XSmallSo he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. Luke 15:20 NIV

One of the finest word pictures in the Bible: God running to His children! Can you say Godspeed?

Jesus told this parable, not so much about a boy, foolish in his youth who squanders away all his wealth and then comes cowering back to an expectant father. Even though that is what occurs in the story, this story is about you and me.

Jesus is describing for us how God feels about His children. If you are a child of God, bought and paid for by the blood of Jesus, through your faith in Him and Him alone to save you, then God will always be ready to welcome you home! God will never give up on His children.  God may discipline you, but you can rest assured He will never forsake you. You are His, and He will wait for you as His own.

Stop for a moment and picture this story as Jesus meant for you to see it. Imagine you are the prodigal child. You have wandered away from the comfort and protection of your Father God. You have wasted your life on wild living. It was fun at first, but then the new wore off and you were homesick. You realized what you had given up. What you wouldn’t give to go home, but how could you? You had traveled so far and your pride was at stake. People would say, “I told you so”. Your friends might even make fun of you. And what about your Father?  How could He ever forgive you for what you have done? Plus, does He really want you to come home anyway?  Would anyone?

Still, anything is better than where you are at now, so you head for home. Before you can even see the front porch…while your head was still hanging low…you hear a sound. It sounds like footsteps. Heavy footsteps. You look up, almost afraid to for fear of what you may see, and you the sight is something you have never seen before!

YOUR FATHER GOD IS RUNNING TO MEET YOU! God, the Creator of stars, is running to greet you, a sinner, and welcome you home. He isn’t coming with a frown or a smirk of anger on His face. He has His arms open wide! He has on a great big smile! He has a loving twinkle in His eye, the kind He always had when He was proud of something you did!

He reaches you and instead of shouting insults at you, He tells you how pleased He is to have you home. There are tears in His eyes! He lets out a shout of joy. He orders a party to be held in your honor! He tells the angels to get the band playing! Gabriel starts up the gas grill! GOD IS GLAD YOU HAVE COME HOME!

Maybe you need to go home today! God is waiting! He’s probably over half way towards you right now! All you have to do is turn around, and head for home!
I hope you’ll invite me to the party!

Avoiding Change For Change’s Sake

I love continual improvement. I am one of those who actually enjoy change.  If things stay the same too long I get bored and begin looking for a new challenge.  I even stir things for fun sometimes just to keep life interesting around me.  (Sometimes this characteristic gets me in trouble with my wife.)

Personality aside, however, the truth is that not everything needs to be tweaked.  Some things are probably working okay, achieving great success, and are best left alone for the time being.  Change for the sake of change sake is not always good.  When Momma said “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” and the other cliché about “the grass is always greener”, she was speaking from some life experience.

There is a fine line between making things better and messing things up.  One of the great challenges for the leader is carefully considering the balance between instigating change for the good of the organization or team and allowing progress to continue without interference.

There are some indicators that change could be a good thing:

  • When energy is waning in the status quo
  • When needed improvement is planned and purposeful
  • When the change will result in greater efficiency, returns or profit
  • When it is clear a change will be needed soon to remain competitive or relevant

Leaders, how do you determine it is time for change?

Why Was David “A Man After God’s Own Heart”?

An often-confusing term concerning the Biblical character of David is the term “man after God’s own heart”.  Have you ever wondered what that really means? What does that kind of heart even look like? This morning I read a verse from the writings of David that I believe perhaps best captures the meaning behind this phrase.

I said to the Lord, “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.” Psalms 16:2

David recognized that the only good in him was the God in him.  Great godly leaders are willing to step aside from their own need for ego building and self-confidence and humble themselves before an almighty God.

I have heard before that President Theodore Roosevelt often went outdoors at night, looked up into the vastness of the universe, simply to remind himself of his humanity compared to the vastness of the universe.  I think that is an important principle for all of us that claim a leadership title.

Next time someone asks you why David was called “a man after God’s own heart”, point him or her to Psalm 16:2.

Great Leaders Lead Well First In The Home

One key indicator of good leadership is to look at a leader’s family.  This may be a matter of personal opinion, but I believe a leader is only as good as the success of the followers of the person leading.  I personally believe the greatest leadership calling for any of us is in our home, so if a person desires to be a great leader, he or she must learn first to lead his or her family well.

I have known so many people who claim to be leaders and are hailed as great leaders in their profession or organization, but who have family lives that are a mess.  Sadly this is true in many churches also, which is where most of my leadership focus is aimed.  Again, it is a matter of opinion, but I have a harder time celebrating a person as a great leader if they have no ability to lead in their private life.  Maybe I am wrong, but I often weigh a pastor’s leadership excellence by the countenance on his wife’s face or the relationship he has with his children.  At our church, when we are hiring a staff person, we always consider the person’s spouse and children in the equation.  It is not only Biblical, but it is also practical.

Pastors and other leaders, if you measured your influence and success in ministry or business completely by your immediate family, how are you doing?

I have shared my opinion and I would love to hear yours.  Do you have a harder time following a leader if you find out he or she does not lead well in the home?

A Devotional Encouragement On Overcoming Fear

I command you…be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9 NLT

As I read the scripture, I see little room for a believer to be afraid, except the reverent fear of God.

Perplexed, yes… Confused, sometimes… Overwhelmed, often… Angry, perhaps when necessary… Distressed, possibly…

Of course, just the fact that the command is there does not mean we will always follow it. In fact, to the contrary, I have been afraid many times. I fight the worry battle like everyone else. Wasn’t it David, the man after God’s own heart, who said, “When I am afraid, I will trust in you”?

Still, the Bible consistently reminds us not to allow fear to captivate our lives. Obviously, when God first gave this command to Joshua, being an all-knowing God, He knew that Joshua was about to encounter some scary days.  The enemies of Joshua had ample opportunity to attempt to make him squirm.

Even today God knows that there will be times in our life that cause fear to be our lead emotion. He sees the trouble before it comes. The One who MADE the disciples get into a boat and face the raging sea often allows the storms to come in our life.

God knows there are things to make us afraid, but the challenge remains and the command remains to not be discouraged and to not be afraid!  Furthermore, I have a feeling the times when our fear is greatest are instances where we need to rely on His perfect strength even more.

Call on the Lord today and ask Him to help you overcome your fears!

10 Life Quotes to Get You Motivated

Here are 10 quotes to get you motivated for the week ahead.  You may want to pick one, write it on an index card and put it on the refrigerator.

A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at him.
David Brinkley

Develop success from failures. Discouragement and failure are two of the surest stepping stones to success.
Dale Carnegie

Defeat is not the worst of failures. Not to have tried is the true failure.
George Edward Woodberry

Don’t aim for success if you want it; just do what you love and believe in, and it will come naturally.
David Frost

All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.
Walt Disney

Don’t confuse fame with success. Madonna is one; Helen Keller is the other.
Erma Bombeck

Failure is success if we learn from it.
Malcolm Forbes

In order to succeed, your desire for success should be greater than your fear of failure.
Bill Cosby

Dream no small dreams for they have no power to move the hearts of men.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Most people give up just when they’re about to achieve success. They quit on the one yard line. They give up at the last minute of the game one foot from a winning touchdown.
Ross Perot

(Thanks to http://www.brainyquote.com for these bits of inspiration.)

What Am I Supposed To Do?

Good reminder for me today…how about you?

But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do,
what God is looking for in men and women.
It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor,
be compassionate and loyal in your love,
And don’t take yourself too seriously—
take God seriously.

Micah 6:8 Message Version