Patience in Leadership

PATIENCE

“What would you like for breakfast?” mother would ask.

“Ice Cream,” came the reply. The actual food requested was immaterial as it was a cycle of equally inappropriate breakfast items.

“No, I think we’ll have porridge this morning.” Mother did not introduce so much as an extra breath before pulling out the pot in which the oats and water would soon be simmering. She knew–because her mother had trained her as had her grandmother trainer her mother–that a diet of ice cream, cookies or cake was not the foundation of a successful day or life. She was immune to the disappointed voices and saddened faces when the desired bowl of chocolate chip appeared as the mottled beige of oatmeal, perhaps sweetened with a touch of brown sugar. Mother knew her role and she looked to the day when her children would become adults with their own children, perhaps smirking at the fleeting thought of being that grandmother who gave her grandchildren everything they wanted. Even ice cream for breakfast.

But mother said no and meant it. She knew that her role was to nurture and raise you, and she did it. And aren’t you glad she did?

Leaders of God’s people must be equally steadfast in adhering to the promises of God despite calls to ‘turn back’, ‘stay here’ or ‘make us gods who will go before us’. While Moses trembled in the presence of God who outlined the way in which his people would engage Him and worship Him (Ex 20-31), the recently freed people became restless and demanding (Ex 32). Forgetting what they had witnessed in their escape from bondage, forgetting the grace that had secured them from the angel of the Lord, forgetting the protection that God had promised and demonstrated, forgetting the provision of food and water; forgetting. Forgetting, either by lapse or design, but forgetting nonetheless. Forgetting, and demanding that their wishes be satisfied.

Aaron should not have forgotten however. Aaron who had witnessed the miraculous work of Yahweh firsthand. Aaron who had learned to trust God alongside Moses and who, as the interim leader of the Hebrews, needed to stand firm in that trust despite the length of Moses’ absence. A leader needed to stand and say “No!” No, God has given us a vision for the future as His people and we will not deviate from that vision. No, God’s providence will not be denied. No, God’s grace will not be discounted. No, the freedom from bondage given to us by grace will not be ignored.

The leader of God’s people must be patient and steadfast in leading them forward toward the vision that God gives. Many will want to stop along the way citing ample food and water supplies but the leader must continue the march. The leader must not hesitate, even when the siren songs of comfort and tradition tempt people away from the path. Even when trouble appears to be insurmountable and failure sure, like the Red Sea stretched endlessly before them and Pharaoh’s army speeding from the rear, the leader of God’s people must wait patiently for God to move and he must lead the people to do the same.

Because God will move, just as He has promised. At just the right moment and in exactly the right way.

SIDE BY SIDE: 2 audacious lists

Two Lists Will Revolutionize Your Relationship with God

Praise the Lord, O my soul; and forget not all his benefits–   Psalm 103:2

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In a busy life it is all too easy to miss God at work. We can become so wrapped up in our daily lives that the sometimes subtle moves of God all around us can fade into our surroundings and we walk right by.Some will not be noticed and missed forever. Others will be sensed at the amygdala level and later, through the prompting of the Holy Spirit, will receive the full attention of the brain. We can call these ‘near misses’.

It’s certainly possible to proceed through life unaware of God at work. We can remain faithful and repentant to the best of our ability. We can just exist, naïve to what we are missing but this is a difficult position to maintain. Once the Christian has tasted the briefest experience of knowing the living, active God at this level, he is driven to experience more. This is by design in the relationship between God and human kind and it serves a purpose in the course of discipleship.To become cognizant of God at work begins to form our confidence. He has promised to be at work and we have seen him at work. Confidence builds faith. Our witness to the work of God trains us to place ever greater trust in His promises. Faith builds boldness. If God has been faithful in promise A He will be faithful in promise B despite appearances to the contrary. Greater trust, greater faith and audacious boldness lead to the fullness of life promised to the people of God.

Two sheets of paper can start the trust building exercise. On page one, list the experiences you have had that evidence God at work around you. This is an easy list to start since the first experience you have to record is your own salvation. Build from there recording moments in which you have seen God at work in your life or the lives of others. Make note of the transformation that occurred. Search the scriptures for promises that align with that experience. Write it all down and set it aside.

The second sheet of paper will contain a record of near misses, those times in which you walked past God at work only to realize it later. Perhaps it was an evangelistic opportunity or a moment in which you could have encouraged another person, brought correction for them, comforted them. We call these near misses because the Spirit reminds us after the fact that we passed by the Father without notice. This activates the Reticular nerves and we become more aware of our surroundings, seeing things that had not been noticed before.

When you have completed both lists place them side by side. Ask yourself, if God has been faithful and actively working in those instances on list A, won’t He also be faithful and active when you become more aware of the moments on list B? Of course! The witness of list A builds your confidence and your increasing confidence contributes to a deepening faith. That faith and your heightened spider-sense will transform you from being an observer to one actively seeking to be involved with the Father’s work. Now, you’re living.

image by Ana C.

Psalm 78 – In Spite of His Wonders, They Did Not Believe

image It was not unusual for Jewish religious leaders to rehearse their covenant history with God in writing, or verbally in worship. The fickle loyalty of the human heart had loved and loathed with equal vigor again and again throughout the whole of their relationship with God. Typical of this ever changing relationship, the psalmist records this:

Thus he brought them to the border of his holy land,

to the hill country his right hand hand had taken.

He drove out nations before them and allotted their lands to them as an inheritance;

he settled the tribes of Israel in their homes.

But they put God to the test and rebelled against the most high;

they did not keep his statutes.

Like their father they were disloyal and faithless, as unreliable as a faulty bow. (Ps 78:54-56)

Christians often wish aloud to be restored to an age of signs and wonders, claiming that their faith would be impenetrable to doubt if they could just see a single miracle. Saving the miracle of changed lives that surround them for a later discussion, we need only read this psalm or the Old Testament to know that this is bunk. The human heart is, above all else, dedicated to self.

The Christian will say aloud that ‘their heart belongs to Jesus’ but in practice, they are fully aware of the parts they hold back for themselves. We put our faith in God who is unseen and the corruption of our heart is such that we continue to harbor doubt about whether or not He might come through for us. We read our bibles and see that time after time, God has been perfectly faithful and yet we wonder if this is the day when He will not. We wander in a desert of our own making.

There is no such thing as a part-time Christian. Christ lives in us but did not displace us. Paul’s words to the Galatian church remind us “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” (Gal 2:20) The struggle is internal but must ultimately end in our surrender of the parts of our hearts that we insist on keeping to ourselves. The signs and wonders we seek are inside of us and ready to be displayed only at our own humility. Problem with anger that you want to disappear? Bend the knee and turn it over to Christ in you and see it reworked. Unable to control some personality aspect? Give it to Christ in you and see it changed. Allow the Holy Ghost to completely overtake your heart and the signs and wonders will be before you constantly. Belief will grow to the benefit of all.

 

Grace and peace to you.

image by kmakice

Lent Spent with the Psalms Day Four

image“’For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness.” (Ezekiel 34:11-12)

It’s easy to misread the skies and come to a faulty conclusion. Here in Colorado, the mountains can point you in the wrong direction as they hide the truth. Just yesterday a clear sky in the morning would have let you leave the house in a light jacket that would have offered little protection as you scraped the snow and ice from your car in the evening. We can fall into the same error in our spiritual lives, looking at the clouding skies and believe that God has let us go beyond his loving grasp.

The faith built of our ever more intimate relationship with our Father tells us something quite different. Look at the final verse of Psalm 11,

For the Lord is righteous, he loves justice;

upright men will see his face. (v7)

Though it might seem as though we have been lost by him and surrounded by trouble and challenge, His people will see His face. He will seek you out, there is no place you can go from which God will not bring you back. As we walk toward Calvary, faith lights the way. As we near the Cross, the light will lead us on.

The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord is on his heavenly throne.

He observes the sons of men; his eyes examine them. (v4)

Grace and peace to you.

image m angel herrero

Psalm 60 With God We Will Gain the Victory

imageYou have rejected us, O God, and burst forth upon us; you have been angry – now restore us!

You have shaken the land and torn it open; mend its fractures, for it is quaking. (vv 1-2)

Those who read the Psalms devotionally or at random often fail to notice exactly how much of the Psalter is composed of pleas for restoration and paeans to God’s faithfulness in doing so, ‘one more time.’ In verse after verse the psalmist is hemmed in by his enemies and threatened with destruction. He raises his eyes and voice to the heavens and asks God where he is in this time of travail. In every instance, the same answer comes back: “I am here.”

Our lessons in coming to this observation are twofold. The most difficult of the two is to come to the realization that God will turn away from us during different seasons of our lives. The duration may be brief or endure for a long time but the scriptures clearly demonstrate that we risk the the turning of His Face.

You have shown your people desperate times; you have given us wine that makes us stagger. (v3)

Whether the purpose be our redemption through repentance and the subsequent restoration or to enable a larger purpose in His plan, God may cause us to suffer. Do we trust Him in this struggle? Are we willing to be sacrificed for the larger purpose of an eternal plan. To God, our lifetime is but a second; to us it is an eternity of testing. Surely He knows this but can we learn this lesson and shift our perspective into eternity, lifting our eyes from the rocky ground in front of our feet?

The second of the lessons enables us to endure the first. We can trust in God completely. We can dismiss worry and erase our doubts knowing that He is perfectly good and that whatever state we find ourselves in perfectly aligns with His eternal course for history.

But for those who fear you, you have raised a banner to be unfurled against the bow. (v4)

We can unfurl the banner of the gospel, swath ourselves in the good news, and march forward. If our rejection is brought about our own behaviors we can turn from them and seek the restoration that God willingly extends. If our separation is a part of the larger purpose we can be faithful, knowing the ultimate good will come of it. As the Psalmist shouts,

With God we will gain the victory, and he will trample down our enemies. (v12)

Image by ronny andre

The Unexpected Adventure by Lee Strobel & Mark Mittelberg

imageAs we follow our particular paths through life we’re all going to encounter people like Jack, people laying tile nearby another conversation, and spend moments with our neighbors and friends. We may find ourselves in the company of a young Hindu farmer or even a Billy Moore. In every one of these interactions there is an opportunity for God to call us into the adventure of a lifetime, opening the door for a spiritual conversation that may be the turning point in someone’s life. In The Unexpected Adventure, authors Lee Strobel and Mark Mittelberg draw us into the excitement of recognizing these moments without the pressure that sometimes accompanies a programmed evangelism process.

Adventure is about opportunity. Strobel and Mittelberg speak do not set out a program as we might find in Mark’s earlier effort ‘Becoming a Contagious Christian’ and the training program of the same name. Thousands of churches have participated in these types of programs and trained numerous people in how to have the most important conversation that can be had. You learn your spiritual style and how to find those interactions where this can be utilized to the greatest advantage. In many cases, men and women have been successful in implementing the lessons and have gone on to important evangelistic efforts. Many others have found themselves watching and waiting for their opportunities to put the steps into practice but have been too shy or hesitant to move. What sets Adventure apart is its singular focus on the moments of spiritual opportunity that surround us every day. Strobel and Mittelberg serve up vignettes of personal contacts in which they recognized an opening to tell the gospel story, both directly and obliquely.

Written as a collection of 42 devotion-style entries, each of the chapters serves up a different example of the myriad ways in which God arranges spiritually needy lives to intersect with His evangelistic partners, you and me. From an overheard conversation with someone else, through a misunderstood Buenos Dias, or to a close friend who confides her darkest secrets to you; each is a possible invitation to introduce the hope that you know to someone keenly in need of that hope. The variety of encounters that the authors recall is so broad that you will be able to easily locate yourself in more than one. When you have tuned your spiritual antennae to be alert to these invitations you will find that it becomes the most natural thing in life to share what you know without the pressure of thinking about the ‘E’ word or worrying that it must be done in a specific way.

Strobel and Mittelberg have made a fantastic contribution to the Church and her commandment. This book stands up with Rebecca Pippert’s Out of the Shaker, Paul Little’s Know books and Joe Aldrich’s Lifestyle Evangelism in making sharing your hope a natural outpouring of your transformed life. What sets Adventure apart is page after page of recognizable moments in life that we all have. After reading each chapter, you will fold the pages over your finger and think back to similar times in your own life, perhaps recognizing them for divine appointments and hungry for another chance. With no steps to remember, telling your story of hope or simply answering a question will become a response as easy as breathing. Sign up now for The Unexpected Adventure, you won’t regret it.

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Lent 2009 – 32 Steps to the Cross

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“For, said Peter, “it is written in the book of Psalms,

“’May his place be deserted; let there be no one to dwell in it,’

and,

“’May another take his place of leadership.’ (Acts 1:20)

Peter is continuing the conversation he has been having with the remaining disciples after they had confronted the betrayal by Judas (33 Steps). In Acts we see a Peter who is maturing as the Spirit has confronted his worst tendencies and worked His transformation. The Apostle now turns his attention to filling the emptiness among the Eleven and fulfilling their mission. His use of scripture is a turning point for Peter; he has put aside his raw emotion in decision making and is applying the Word to the situation at hand.

The lesson for us is plain. Our maturity as Christ followers is measured by those moments in which we put aside our self reliance and rely on the revealed Word and the Spirit’s direction in plotting our direction in life. Make note of the twin requirements: we must know God’s Word and discern the Spirit’s guidance. Growth in these areas only comes from devotion to study and prayer.

Do you need to renew your commitment?

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