Posted in Character, Servant Leadership

Do What You Believe to Be True

Reflection

What do you believe about God? What do you believe about yourself?

Now before you answer, I’m not asking about the mental beliefs you hold, those automatic responses that you learned in Sunday School or Bible study and can rattle off from memory. I’m asking about the beliefs that you act upon, the ones that guide your life experiences.

That’s a little trickier, isn’t it? It would be nice if our thoughts and behaviors always matched our theology and Biblical identity of ourselves. But we’re not perfect. That’s why we need a Savior. And we need the Savior’s instruction to lovingly point out the inconsistencies in our lives.

For example, we call God our Heavenly Father and sing songs with lyrics like, “You’re a good, good Father. That’s who You are.” However, we may actually view our Heavenly Father like an earthly father who was absent or let us down or even worse. We may fear God or think that He is punishing us when bad things happen. We “know” He is our loving Heavenly Father, yet we find it hard to really trust Him. That’s an inconsistency.

Here’s another example. We believe that we are loved by God as His children. After all, 1 John 3:1 says, “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” Nevertheless, we may feel unworthy of His love. We see our shortcomings and wonder how God could love us. We “know” we are loved, and yet we constantly feel unlovable. That’s an inconsistency.

And another example…As God’s dearly loved children, we believe that we should honor others above ourselves (Romans 12:10). Yet, it may be a struggle to lift others up, because we’re afraid that we’ll be overlooked or forgotten. After all, how will be get ahead if we don’t look out for number one? That, too, is an inconsistency.

I’m so thankful that the Lord doesn’t just reveal these inconsistency in our lives. He helps us fix them. He want us to thrive in life. We thrive when we do what we believe to be true.

When we are double-minded, we get tossed around by the feelings of the moment. Our perceptions become distorted, and we follow them any way.

“Search me, God, and know my heart… “ (Psalm 139:23a). This has been my prayer throughout my life. The Lord has been faithful to gently reveal my inconsistencies. In recent days I have had to deal with the inconsistency of “knowing” that He is my strength in times of weakness, and allowing my feelings of weakness to hold me back. I find myself feeling too weak and powerless to move forward. I am not brave enough, and I want to hide. Surely, God should find someone else for the job! Then, His sweet Spirit reminds me that I can move forward, because He is strong and powerful. By faith I walk it out.

I declare the truth of who He is, I meditate on that truth, and then I practice that truth.

Take a look in the mirror and ask the Lord to show you what He sees. It takes courage to face our inconsistencies one at a time. It takes even greater courage to change and grow. Thankfully, you are never alone in the task. God’s Spirit is there in the midst of transformation, empowering you to deeply believe the truth and then live accordingly.

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do (James 1:22-25).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, You search me and You know me. You see my heart and my struggles. Thank You for leading me in the way of truth. Help me to not just know what Your Word says, but to deeply believe it, and to live by it. May I reveal Jesus to this world by being authentic in faith and action. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

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Posted in Character, Servant Leadership

Integrity: It Really Matters

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“Do as I say, not as I do.” Whenever I hear this phrase I cringe inside. Leading by example is one of the top qualities followers desire of their leaders world wide. Yet, it seems to be in short supply among the leaders most visible to us.

“Do as I say, not as I do.” This well known admonition has been used by parents and authority figures for generations. Surprisingly, the origin of this saying is quite noble. Preachers of old acknowledged their personal shortcomings. Despite their desire to follow Jesus in perfect holiness, they knew that as human beings they would never be perfect. Only Jesus Christ was and is perfect. Knowing that they would fail in their aim for perfection, they instructed their congregation to follow the Word of God they zealously preached (“Do as I say”) rather than their imperfect example (“not as I do”).

“Do as I say, not as I do.” Unfortunately the saying has morphed to mean something very different. “Follow my commands as the leader, and do not pay attention to my example.” It illustrates the sometimes wide gap between authority and integrity. In today’s world, though, integrity is the greatest need in leadership. With our families, in ministry, on the job, in public and in private, a leader’s example matters. In every setting, a leader must practice what he or she preaches (or values) every moment of every single day.

You may be thinking, “That sounds like a lot of pressure!” Thankfully the Lord is not only our example of integrity, He also empowers us through His Spirit to live with integrity. He guides us to take steps that honor Him. He asks us to pay attention and be obedient.

What is integrity, this quality that is so foundational to influence? It is doing the right thing at the right time for the right reasons in all circumstances whether or not anyone is watching. It involves honesty, trustworthiness, and steadfastness. However, it goes beyond disciplined and predictable behavior, and includes authenticity of the soul.

“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17, NLT).

Integrity is a characteristic that anyone can learn. Nobody is born with it. Nobody is born without it. Integrity is developed over time. A person’s reputation for integrity takes years to establish, while it can be destroyed in a moment. Integrity really matters. It must be nurtured and protected.

Here are some tangible ways to practice and develop integrity.

Be true to your promises. Even if you don’t say “I promise,” be a person of your word. Don’t tell people what you think they want to hear. Matthew 5:37 in the Message version provides a great explanation.

“And don’t say anything you don’t mean. This counsel is embedded deep in our traditions. You only make things worse when you lay down a smoke screen of pious talk, saying, ‘I’ll pray for you,’ and never doing it, or saying, ‘God be with you,’ and not meaning it. You don’t make your words true by embellishing them with religious lace. In making your speech sound more religious, it becomes less true. Just say ‘yes’ and ‘no.’ When you manipulate words to get your own way, you go wrong.”

Tell others when you face delays. Communicate quickly and often with people who are relying on you. Let them know your intentions to follow through on your word, and give them the appropriate information. Even though it feels uncomfortable, don’t avoid, ignore, or hide from them.

Ask for forgiveness when you fall short. Humble people realize they will make mistakes in their pursuit of integrity, and readily acknowledge when it happens. Apologizing to a loved one for your bad attitude, or sharing with your staff about an error you made can help restore integrity.

Extend grace to others. “Treat others the same way you want them to treat you” (Luke 6:31 AMP). How do you want others to treat you when you admit your mistakes? Do you want them to be understanding and forgiving? Then practice being gracious to others.

Being an amazing spouse, parent, or leader goes beyond being able to look good and perform well when others are watching. Unwavering integrity is a key ingredient for powerful influence wherever God has set us.

“To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice” (Proverbs 21:3).

“The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity” (Proverbs 11:3, NIV).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You for providing the perfect example of integrity. Your ways are always true and steadfast. I acknowledge that I often desire people to recognize me. I allow their opinions to affect my actions, instead of being directed by Your unconditional love for me. Help me to follow You with integrity whether or not others are watching. You always see me, and I want to live to please You alone. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Posted in Personal Development, Servant Leadership

Is It Time for a Servant Leader Tune Up?

Man Looking Under Hood
Young man looks under the hood of his car for engine trouble. Horizontal shot.

Ask anyone in leadership in a Christian setting if they are a servant leader, and they will probably say, “Yes!” Churches and ministries uphold servant leadership as the leadership model exemplified by Jesus Christ. It’s the standard we strive for, but it’s so much easier to preach than to practice.

Love for others is what sets servant leadership apart from other leadership approaches. Rather than setting the success of the organization as priority, servant leadership focuses on love for the followers. Healthy, cared for followers will, in turn, lead to organizational health.

What does the love of servant leadership look like?

  • Having a heart to serve others.
  • Putting others’ best interests above your own.
  • Sincerely caring about the welfare of the people working with you, and taking an interest in their personal lives.
  • Being an active listener.
  • Promoting kindness, respect, and honesty in the workplace.
  • Recognizing when others are feeling down without being told, and offering encouragement.
  • Having courage to speak into other people’s lives, even when it is difficult.
    Investing in the holistic development of your followers.

Perhaps servant leadership would be easier if it were simply a matter of engaging in a correct set of behaviors. Alas, servant leadership requires authentic character and genuine care about your followers. It is build upon God’s love.

In 1 Corinthians 13 the Apostle Paul discusses the supremacy of love over the greatest possible exploits. No matter what amazing leadership feats we may accomplish, without love we are nothing and we gain nothing. One of the most popular verses in the Bible, John 3:16, portrays love. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son…”

Simply put…Love gives.

Servant leadership is more about “being” and less about “doing.” At its best, servant leadership flows from the heart devoted to God. It is founded on a strong identity as being a child of the King. Servant leaders value what God values, and place priority on what God places priority–PEOPLE! They really, truly love people.

Servant leaders view themselves as servants first rather than leaders first.

They are servants and stewards rather than leaders and owners.

They view it as a privilege to invest in their followers.

They recognize leadership as a gift from God by which they can effectively serve others. Empowering followers and inspiring vision are expressed through love.

Servant leadership is not for the weak of heart. Rather, it takes great courage and conviction to take the posture of a servant and to love those entrusted to your care.

As a leader, how are you doing in this area of truly loving your followers? Is it time for a servant leader tune up?

John 13:34-35
So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.

Ephesians 5:1-2
Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, thank You for the gift of leadership. Help me to steward the gift faithfully so that I can serve others well. Show me the areas where selfishness rules. Show me how to place followers ahead of myself. Teach me to lead with Your genuine love and kindness in Your kingdom work. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Posted in Character, Servant Leadership

Remember Who You Are: Secret to Authentic Leadership

AuthenticityHoax_AF

It happened again. I met with a colleague and dear friend, the CEO of a neighboring pregnancy center network. Our time together was inspiring. We shared ideas and prayed together. I left her office energized, ready to tackle the world (or at least my part of it).

And then it happened. As I replayed our encouraging conversation in my head, an enemy began to play with my mind. Accusations mingled with my thoughts and, within minutes, dominated them.

Who do I think I am? I can’t do this job. I don’t have what it takes.

My friend (I’ll call her Thora) is a bundle of energy and health. I’m not. I struggle with fatigue and pain.

Thora is bold and has charisma. I’m not and don’t. I hesitate before making a decision. I come off as shy and quiet when people meet me.

Thora has connections with the movers and shakers in her community. I don’t. My community is much larger and despite my efforts I haven’t made in-roads with influencers.

Thora has a great reputation among supporters. They trust her and believe in the solidness of the organization. I am still a newcomer and inherited a mess. I am a weak leader.

Thora’s operational budget is much bigger than mine. She has more staff and is free to focus. I wear hats for at least three other positions. My hands are tied.

Thora has the gift of faith. If God asks her to do something, she says yes and runs that direction. Amazing things happen. I am a skeptic and don’t get the results she does.

Try as I might, I couldn’t cast off the weight of my own inadequacies. And as in the case when in a mental downward spiral, I couldn’t see anything that was good. I decided to reach out to a new friend who is a consultant for pregnancy center directors. I think he was surprised that I asked how he handles it when doubts plague him rather than a question about vision or operations. But he recovered quickly. Masterfully he led me through a few questions that centered on God’s calling rather than my own shortcomings. One statement he made stood out from the rest.

 

God has called you there, because you have what is needed there for this season.

 

His words cleared the fog that had settled over me.

As I reflected on his statement, I realized I had lost sight of who I am. One of the top qualities of thriving servant leaders is authenticity—being who you are everywhere you are. But if we forget who we are or wish we were someone else, we really can’t be authentic. We end up being a chameleon, changing color in every setting.

To be authentic, we must remember that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. We are complex. Who we are cannot be reduced to a sentence or a list of attributes. That being said, I have found taking assessments to be a powerful way to identify the qualities I already know are there. It brings me to greater appreciation. I can marvel at who God made me to be. I can live life intentionally being myself.

It is said that if everyone took assessments for Strengths Finder, Myers-Briggs, and spiritual gifts, only one per cent would have the same collective results. That doesn’t take into account your gender, your ethnicity and culture, your education and life experiences, your talents and skills, or your interests and passions. There really is no one just like you.

I recommend that you invest in yourself. If you haven’t taken assessments like the ones I mentioned, I encourage you to do so. If you have taken them, I encourage you to look at them again. Add to them the other factors that set you apart. Spend time thanking God for who you are.

Where has God called you to lead? Home, school, vocational or workplace ministry, social media, neighborhood, community? God has called you there, because you have what is needed there for this season. To quote from the movie The Lion King, “Remember who you are.” And then as you lead, be who you are.

For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead,do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully (Romans 12:5-8 NIV).

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago (Ephesians 2:10 NLT).

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, thank you for your faithful love. When I struggle with doubts, you are there to show me the truth. Thank you for creating me as I am. Help me to appreciate and rejoice in who you have made me to be. Empower me by your Spirit to be the best version of me and to reflect the image of Jesus Christ. Use me to accomplish your purposes as I seek to be an authentic leader. For your Kingdom and glory, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Posted in Faith, Servant Leadership

Worship While You Work

“Oh no, it’s Monday!” Is that what you say when the weekend is over, and it’s time to start the weekly grind? We’ve probably all approached a new week like this.

In our hustle and bustle society, it is easy to view our lives in terms of compartments. We have our home life, our work or school life, our church life, and our private life. When work stops then our real life begins. As Christ-followers we have an opportunity to approach life differently. Rather than segmentation, we integrate our relationship with Jesus. Every area becomes a sphere of worship.

Deuteronomy 6:5 says, “And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.” Such consuming love cannot be packed away until quitting time. It cannot be saved and dusted off for the Sunday morning church service.

Brother Lawrence was a Carmelite monk in the 1600s who developed the ability to worship in the midst of demanding work. He was a man who had aspired an office in religious leadership but was overlooked and assigned to kitchen duty. He discovered how to live in the presence of God while engaged in the cooking and cleaning for the monastery residents, and being subject to the bidding of his superiors. Brother Lawrence understood that there is no division between sacred and secular.

He said, “[I]t seems like a world of trouble to bring oneself into the consciousness of God’s presence. Yet it might be so simple. Is it not quicker and easier just to do our common business wholly for the love of him?”

As odd as it may seem, peeling potatoes and washing dishes were activities for worship, to bask in the love of God.

A modern day hero of the faith experienced the presence of God in the depths of prison. Pastor Shi Weihan, a house church leader in China, was imprisoned for three years for printing Bibles. During his time of confinement, he was encouraged by the Holy Spirit and made his cell a place of worship.

We aren’t locked up in prison. However, we all face difficult situations. As temples of the Holy Spirit, we have Him with us everywhere we go and whatever we do. Through Him we can “do the will of God will all [our] heart” (Ephesians 6:6b). Our work becomes worship, as we “[work] for the Lord rather than for people” (Ephesians 6:7b).

A radical revolution occurs when we determine to honor Jesus in every area of our lives. When we seek to worship while we work, we will enjoy Mondays and every day of the week.

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, I confess that sometimes it is easy to lose sight of You. Help me to see You in the mundane and tedious tasks, as well as in the unpleasant challenges. Remind me that You are always with me, so that I may experience Your presence throughout each and every day. Teach me to worship at work, at home, and in every sphere of life. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Posted in Faith, Personal Development

Sometimes a Little Rant is Good for You

“God can handle you.” This is one of free lance writer Melissa Hawks’ favorite sayings. It expresses what I’ve known for a long time to be true. And it’s one of the reasons I treasure my relationship with the Lord so much.

Life can be disappointing. Our well laid plans take unexpected turns. Our dreams morph into something we do not recognize. During those times, it’s okay to say we don’t like the situation we’re in. We don’t have to pretend that we’re happy with an outcome when we’re not. It gives me great comfort to know that we can be real and honest with Jesus.

“God can handle you.” He already knows what you are thinking and feeling. Nothing you say is going to surprise or shock Him. Sometimes a little rant is good for you.

Right now I am in the middle of a life transition that has been difficult and confusing. This summer my husband and I resigned our pastorate at a church we have invested ourselves for 16 years. The Lord unmistakably led us here and we’ve done our best to be faithful, even though it has meant my husband has been bi-vocational most of our tenure. When things would get tough, we would pray and discuss with each other if it were time to leave. The answer had always been “no.” We were still called to serve there. However, during these conversations I would say something like, “When it’s time to go, I want to move away. It will be too hard to say goodbye to our church and then stay in the same town.” I had seen other close friends walk that road, and I didn’t want the pain. In my mind, resigning and relocating had to go together. Nothing else made sense.

Well, we resigned and guess where we live? In the same town, three blocks from the church! There are currently no other church ministry opportunities elsewhere, (Not that we are looking. We are in a season of rest.) and we continue working at our other jobs. Staying here is logical.

But it’s not what I wanted, and I was angry.

Thankfully I knew that I could rant to the Lord.

It’s not fair. It doesn’t make sense. It hurts too much. Why are You doing this to me?

Scripture, especially in the Psalms, sets a good precedence for ranting.

How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me? (Psalm 13:1-2)

You are God my stronghold. Why have you rejected me? Why must I go about mourning,
oppressed by the enemy? (Psalm 43:2)

Once the rant is over, emotions calm and we can once again remind ourselves that God really does know best. We can reconnect with His faithful love toward us.

But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the Lord’s praise,
for he has been good to me (Psalm 13:5-6).

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God (Psalm 43:5).

After months of off-and-on wrestling with God, I am beginning to see the goodness of God in keeping us here in the same town.

  • He is providing for us financially through our good jobs. I have to commute, but it’s a lovely drive.
  • He protected us from the upheaval of changing everything at once. It takes a long time to adjust to starting over in a new location.
  • He has allowed us to continue to enjoy the friendships we developed with our former congregation, even though we no longer pastor their church.

Are you in the middle of a tough situation? You don’t have to pretend. Let Jesus know how you feel. He already knows anyway. A little rant will do you good.

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, help me to be honest as I express my feelings to You. Thank You for walking with me through every difficult situation, and that You are never offended by what I share with You. Help me to trust You with every area of my life, including those that cause me anger and other intense emotions. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Posted in Faith, Personal Development, Servant Leadership

What Courage Really Looks Like

WonderWoman

When you think of someone that is courageous, who comes to mind? As a little girl I idolized Wonder Woman. Not only was she beautiful and possessed super human strength, she wasn’t afraid of anything. She could stop bullets aimed her direction. In the midst of calamity, she stood with confidence, her hands placed firmly on her hips. Wonder Woman was invincible. (Actually, I learned that the inventor did give her one weakness, but that was changed many years later.)

This super hero was so appealing to me because she represented everything I was not. Fear was one of my companions in childhood and continues to visit me as an adult. I never climbed a tree because I was afraid of falling. I hated being in the dark. I was easily spooked. I avoided any situation that seemed to have any kind of risk associated with it. I also was paranoid of getting sick. When I felt the slightest pain or discomfort, I worried that it would become life threatening. Wonder Woman and I were clearly opposites.

Last week I attended a seminar for Executive Directors. The consultant mentioned some of the attributes of effective upper level leaders. Skills can be learned but, according to her, these traits were innate. As she listed them, I checked them off with a sense of relief. And then she got to the trait fearless.

My thoughts immediately started to race. “Oh no, not fearless!” “What am I even doing in this room?” “What am I doing as an Executive Director in the first place?”

I took control of my thoughts, and reminded myself of an important principle.

Courage isn’t about what you feel like on the inside. Courage is about what you do on the outside despite what you feel on the inside.

As a vocal performer and public speaker, I have had lots of experience with anxiety. When I first started singing, I would get physically sick and make multiple bathroom runs before going on stage. Thankfully I learned to ask the Lord for His strength and peace, to help me harness the power of fear and use it as energy to fuel my performance. Nobody had a clue what was going on inside me. All they could see was someone exuding confidence and completely engaged with the audience.

It is similar with leadership. There are plenty of occasions to feel anxiety, fear, or a looming sense of inadequacy. It’s what we do in the midst of these feelings that counts.

Here are some of the external actions that characterize courage.

Courage perseveres. You do what it takes to cross the finish line. You keep following God’s direction and plan for your life, and don’t allow difficulties to deter you.

Courage evaluates. You are willing to take a hard look at the current realities and not sugar coat the facts. You look for feedback from others to accurately assess situations.

Courage changes. You may not like change, but you understand how important it is in order to move forward. Creativity and innovation are necessary in shaking up the status quo.

Courage confesses. You readily admit when you are wrong or when you don’t have the answers. Authenticity is more important than looking good.

Courage prays. You draw your strength and inspiration from Jesus. When challenges arise, you call out to the Lord in prayer and seek His wisdom.

Courage includes. You ask others to help in the areas of their strengths and skills. You know it takes a well balanced team to get the job done.

Remember, you don’t have to feel brave to be brave.

Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord (Psalm 31:24).

Finally be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power (Ephesians 6:10).

The name of the Lord is a fortified tower; the righteous run to it and are safe (Proverbs 18:10).

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, You are my strength and my shield. When I am afraid, help me trust in You. Thank You for empowering me with everything I need to accomplish Your will. May I walk in confidence, knowing You are with me. In Jesus’ name.