Posted in Faith, Vision & Goal Setting

Strong and Courageous

BeStrongAndCourageous-1

At the start of each year, I ask the Lord for a Scripture to guide the organization I lead. That Scripture becomes the theme for the year, as we seek to honor the Lord and expand our influence in the community. It is a source of encouragement when we face challenges, as well as a source of inspiration as we see God’s faithfulness in light of His specific Word to us. This year the Lord spoke Joshua 1:9 to my heart.

This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go (NLT).

Joshua was chosen to be the successor to Moses. Can you imagine how he must have felt? Moses was the revered leader of the nation of Israel for over forty years. This was the man who received God’s call to lead from the burning bush. He led a multitude of people out of slavery into freedom. This was the man who spent weeks with God on the mountain, whose face glowed so brightly that he had to cover it in public. Moses performed fabulous miracles, and brought the Chosen People to the border of the Promised Land. Joshua had some very big shoes to fill.

But the Lord promised Joshua that if he diligently followed and relied on Him, the Lord would be with Joshua (See Joshua 1:8). He could set aside fear of the unknown and discouragement of not being good enough. Joshua was commanded to be strong and courageous. His strength and courage were not dependent on his warrior abilities. They came from trust in and obedience to God.

There is another passage that is similar to the encouragement Joshua received. It is found in Deuteronomy 31:6.

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you (NIV).

In the first passage, the Lord spoke to Joshua. In this second passage, Moses spoke to all the people. The great leader was now 120 years old and ready to pass the mantle of leadership to Joshua. Moses instructed the vast community to trust the Lord as they crossed over into the Promised Land. It wasn’t going to be easy. They would be stepping into enemy territory, but the Lord had told the Israelites to possess the land.

The ability to overcome the enemy came from the Lord’s presence. He was with His people and would never leave nor forsake them. They weren’t big enough, strong enough, or brave enough in their own strength to fulfill God’ plan. But the Lord was.

In the passage in Joshua, God’s strength and courage are available to the individual. In the Deuteronomy passage, they are available to the faith community.

The command to be strong and courageous is not limited to the Old Testament. The New Testament gives Christ-followers the same encouragement.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand (Ephesians 3:10-13 NIV).

There is a very real spiritual battle going on. Light and darkness. Good and evil. Life and death. Our enemies are not the people we can see. Your fight is not with the annoying person that perpetually rubs you the wrong way. It is not the group that opposes your beliefs and values. No, our true enemies are the unseen spiritual forces of wickedness. We fight the battle by praying, walking in God’s love, and representing His ways. This takes strength and courage, but again our source is Christ and His mighty power. He is already victorious. Our power to stand in the midst of the most troublesome situations is in Him.

What is the Lord calling you to do? Does it seem too big for you? Are you afraid, perhaps terrified? You’re in good company. Our God likes to stretch us beyond our comfort zones, because then we rely on Him.

No matter what 2018 may hold, we can be strong and courageous. We can stand victoriously against the devil’s schemes. We can advance God’s mission. We can thrive in the Lord’s mighty power individually and in the places we lead.

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, be my strength when I am weak. Be my courage when I am discouraged. As I trust You and follow Your Word, equip me to answer Your call and do Your will. Remind me that I am never alone. You are with me, providing all I need every moment. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Graphic designed by Jordanne Babcock.

 

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Posted in Faith, Servant Leadership, Teamwork

We Are Better Together

My early years as a Christian, I was discipled in a church that emphasized the power of the Word of God. What God said in His Word could be trusted with absolute certainty. If He made a promise in Scripture I could claim it as my own. However, while I memorized God’s Word and learned to rely on it as Truth, I also developed an attitude of independence.

This is God’s Word spoken to me.

This is God’s promise I am standing on.

Unfortunately this line of thinking cultivated a strong framework of individuality that affected every area of my life.

I don’t really need anyone. God and me—that’s more than enough.

Sadly I missed out on the beauty and synergy of “we.”

From the earliest days of creation, the Lord emphasized relationships. He formed the first man in His own image. In the perfection of the Garden, He walked personally with Adam in the cool of the evening. Adam enjoyed God’s very presence, and God still said, “It’s not good for man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18).

Today I am convinced that the Lord intended His Word to be much more than My Book of personal, individualized promises. Yes, He created me with special gifts and a specific personality. Yes, I enjoy a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. And yes, He does speak His Word to my heart. But, the Lord’s intentions go far beyond a personalized faith. His Word is spoken to His people in the context of community.

For instance Romans 12:4-5 says, “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.”

Each member belongs to all the others. That sounds like community.

Reading the Scriptures through the lens of community sheds new light. Everything becomes more about “we” and less about “me.”

As leaders, we are called to influence people in a common mission, to work together toward a compelling vision. We must not sit at the top of a hierarchy and issue commands, expecting others to do the work. Our role requires a collective effort. We cannot do what God has asked with an independent spirit. We are created for community. And we are better together.

Do you struggle as a leader to include others?

Identify an area that you will begin to invite others to be a part.

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, I believe you have called me with a purpose as part of something bigger. Help me to rely on You and invite others along for the journey. May I desire to live and lead in the context of community, so that Your Kingdom is built and You are glorified. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Posted in Personal Development, Teamwork, Vision & Goal Setting

Pivot Leadership…My Thoughts (A Book Review)

I am a leadership geek. My bookshelves are filled with books on leadership. My Masters degree is in Organizational Leadership. I am intrigued by both the science and art involved in leading a thriving organization, and drink in as much information as possible at seminars, online, and through conversations.

When Angela Craig asked me to read a draft of her book before it went to press, I eagerly agreed. To be honest, I said “yes” more because I respect Angela as a leader and appreciate her friendship. I really wasn’t sure how much I would get out of the content.

Pivot Leadership: Small Steps…Big Change pleasantly surprised me. Whether you are just starting on the leadership road or already have a wealth of experience, it is a wonderful resource to add to your library. But don’t leave it there to collect dust. It is designed to be interactive.

The thought of becoming a strong leader can seem overwhelming. However, strong leadership is created through taking small steps. Small steps set a direction that results in big change. Pivot Leadership looks at three areas and how to experience vitality in each of them.

Part One deals with the life of the leader. Before you can lead a community to greatness, you need to successfully lead yourself. Be a leader that people respect and trust. Part Two delves into ways to build a community of purpose through building a diverse team, communicating effectively, and creating a culture of camaraderie and collaboration. Part Three looks at leading into the future, doing what you were designed for and refusing to give up.

The beauty of Pivot Leadership is found in the Action Activities at the end of each chapter. Every activity guides you through the process of personalizing the content and to identify the small steps you will take. I used one of the activities in the chapter about workplace communication in a recent staff meeting. It was well received and my team immediately began identifying obstacles to understanding others in the middle of their own conversations.

Pivot Leadership is a book for leaders in any season of life. Use a separate journal to answer the questions. You can review the chapters every so often as a refresher. Most likely your answers will be different each time.

If you are serious about growing as a leader, Pivot Leadership: Small Steps…Big Change is the book for you. I highly recommend it as a tool to move forward and do the great things God has call you to do.

Click here to order Pivot Leadership at Amazon.com

Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant (Luke 22:26, NLT).

I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:14, NIV).

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, I desire to be the best leader I can be for You. Teach me how to lead with integrity, to genuinely love others, and to make wise decisions. Show me the small steps I can take that will make a big change. Empower me to take those steps, so that You will be glorified. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Posted in Character, Faith

Beware of Fear!

I know Jesus (NO FEAR!)
I know God (NO FEAR!)
I know Jesus, and I have got NO FEAR!
(Duff Rowden)

Years ago my worship leader friend sang this chorus at youth events. It was a fun reminder that as Christ-followers, we have victory over fear. The perfect love of God in our lives drives out all fear (1 John 4:18).

The trouble is that fear comes in many forms and is not always easily identifiable. It can be as overwhelming as a paralyzing panic attack, but it can also be as subtle as low-grade, gnawing worry. Fear is designed as an emotion to protect us from a dangerous or unwanted situation. However, it can become an obstacle to experiencing all that God desires.

I spent much of my life dominated by fear of some kind, although it may not have been apparent outwardly. What people could see was my dependability to meet deadlines and ability to perform well. They couldn’t see that my insides were tied up in knots. My driven personality was fueled by a fierce need to be in control at all times. Somehow I believed that being in control meant that fear was kept away.

It was not until I began to experience increased physical symptoms that I truly investigated the negative effects of fear. Headaches, stomach problems, chronic pain, fatigue, dizziness, and anxiety attacks prompted me to sincere soul searching.

Over time the Lord, in His great mercy, began to show me that fear was actually a key influence for my need to be in control. In spite of my external achievements, fear held me back internally and robbed me from living in God’s abundance.

Fear of rejection. My gift of connecting with others and caring for them was distorted. I became motivated to please people, spending a great deal of time concerned about making a positive impression, doing things to get noticed. It also caused me to guard my heart from the pain of rejection. I served people with one hand while protecting my heart with the other, not allowing them to get close enough to hurt me. Needless to say, this didn’t work well with my relationships at home, church, or on the job.

The remedy. I consciously focus on God’s magnificent love for me. While people matter greatly, intimacy with Jesus comes first. People’s opinions vary, and they will hurt me, usually unintentionally but sometimes on purpose. However, my security and acceptance are rooted in Jesus.

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39, NLT)

Fear of failure. My gifts of achievement and dependability were tarnished. I strove for perfection in everything, and felt comfortable maintaining the status quo. Taking risks felt too threatening, and it stopped the flow of creativity and innovation. I could picture negative outcomes and was weighed down by them: A plan that doesn’t work; an event nobody attends; finances drying up, a program that falls apart; my marriage unexpectedly ending. It became paralyzing, prohibiting me from enjoying the adventure of learning and growing.

The remedy. I consciously focus on being led by the Spirit of God. His definition of success is different than the world’s, and is based on obedience to Him. According to the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30), when we work to glorify God and further His Kingdom, we are successful. As we follow God’s direction, serving Him and others, we please the Lord, which is the ultimate success.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take (Proverbs 3:5-6).

In what ways does fear affect you? Don’t allow fear to hold you back. Experience God’s freedom in answering His call and loving those He has placed in your life.

For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs (Zephaniah 3:17).

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for being my Deliverer. As I seek You, You hear me and deliver me from all my fears. Open my eyes to see the ways fear has held me back. Show me the truth, and empower me to walk in Your freedom. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Posted in Faith, Servant Leadership

The Best Leadership Book Ever

I recently attended a conference for women in leadership. I had expected to hear a speaker share principles of servant leadership, along with tips for developing my skills. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised by an inductive Bible study format, as we gleaned leadership insights from the Word of God individually and in small and whole group settings. We were inspired, encouraged, and challenged to be better leaders by the Holy Spirit as we searched the Scriptures.

As leaders, our top priority is to be committed followers of Jesus. While we work with our team and tend to the tasks at hand, it is important to keep our hearts open to the Lord. His Word is powerful and will direct our steps.

The Word of God is the best standard for life and leadership. “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16, NLT). I personally examine my behavior, attitudes, and motives with God’s Word. For example, Philippians 4:8 lists the types of thoughts on which I should dwell. How well am I fixing my thoughts on those things? 2 Peter 1:5-7 instructs me on how to grow in faith. I want to be productive and useful in my knowledge of Jesus Christ. Which qualities do I need to add? Galatians 5:19-23 describes the deeds of the sinful nature and the fruit of the Spirit. Which fruit do I demonstrate most in my life? Which ones need to mature? And let’s not forget 1 Corinthians 13, the “love” chapter. I want my life to measure up to this beautiful depiction of Christ’s love.

Jesus Christ is the best example of leadership. There are many great men and women we can look to as effective leaders, but only Jesus is perfect. His teaching and example dispelled the leadership model of the day and established God’s way of leading. “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:22-25). Jesus turned the definition of leadership upside down. The greatest leaders are, in effect, the greatest servants. Like Jesus, they are patient and grace-filled toward their followers. They find teachable moments to correct them in private. They are kind and have others’ best interests in mind.

Spend time with God and His Word. The Bible is the best leadership book ever. It will equip you to thrive in the job to which God has called you.

Lord, teach me Your ways through Your Word that I may walk in Your truth. Help me grow as a leader who loves and serves others, faithfully pointing the way to You in all that I say and do. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Posted in Vision & Goal Setting

The Tyranny of Should

There is something I really enjoy about getting older. I have a much clearer sense of who God has created me to be, and I feel less pressure to be someone I am not. Even with this greater understanding of freedom, there are times I still live under the heavy weight of man-made expectations. I call this the Tyranny of Should.

Our society paints a picture of a successful woman. She has a full time career. Her children are well-behaved, and thrive at school and in the extra-curricular she actively supports. Her marriage is fulfilling with lots of romance and spice. She is a good cook and keeps an organized and spotless home. She exercises regularly to maintain her attractive figure. In the church, the successful woman looks a little different. She may not work full time, but she is actively involved in church ministry and is supportive of her husband. She spends hours in prayer and Bible study, and opens her home in hospitality.

There are equally demanding expectations on men. It’s overwhelming! What’s a person to do?

It’s important to periodically take stock of what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. I ask the following questions.

What has God called me to do?
God’s calling will change throughout the seasons of our lives. I devoted years investing in my kids and being the primary support person for my pastor-husband. I loved it (for the most part) and knew that God had called me to do it. As my kids grew and needed me less, a new direction became more defined. I have been called to minister in the marketplace, and I have a pastor’s heart.

God’s calling guides my activities. The things I do must relate to His calling. I need to let the distractions go (as good as they may be).

What are my priorities?
We all have 24 hours in a day. I cannot do everything. My time must be spent on what is important to me. In order to see my priorities clearly, I write a list and rank them in order. The top five items are where I spend the majority of my time. Even though I may like other things, I must keep focus.

Because my time is limited, I also adjust my expectations for how much time I spend on my priorities. My top priority has always been cultivating my relationship with Jesus. When I had five young children at home, my devotional time looked much different than it does today. I longed for long hours of silence to listen and pray, but that wasn’t realistic. Now my house is quiet and I don’t long for silence anymore. On the other hand, with my current schedule, I only have 20 minutes a day to exercise. I know it’s not optimal, but it’s what I can do.

Resist the Tyranny of Should. Pursue what God has called you to do, and do what you can do with confidence.

Posted in Character, Vision & Goal Setting

Keep Your Call in Focus

 

A lovely young woman sat in my office, her face aglow as she described God’s call to her to minister to women. She had returned from the mission field and the Lord had shown her through a series of miraculous events what she was supposed to do. We talked about specific ways she could fulfill this call blazing in her heart, and we made arrangements for her to serve.

Several weeks later the same woman was back in my office, this time with tears in her eyes. She was burdened with sorrow, as she poured out her confusion. God had clearly spoken to her and had given her direction, but now she was filled with doubt. Things in life didn’t look the way she thought they should and she wondered if she was really making a difference.

What happened to morph such excitement and resolve into discouragement and doubt?

God’s call to a ministry or position can indeed be exhilarating. It is so exciting to hear from the Lord, to be given a mandate and vision, and to have it confirmed through His Word, circumstances, and trusted advisers.

Inevitably, though, excitement wears off, and the call that was so fresh may become stale. As you encounter difficulties, challenges, or even the mundane, it is easy to wonder if God has suddenly changed His mind.

Reverend Nicky Gumbel, the developer of the Alpha Course, wisely teaches that God doesn’t call us out of things. Rather He calls us into things. When life gets hard and doubts arise, rarely is that evidence of God calling you elsewhere. So how can you be faithful and move forward?

It is important to remember that walking out our call is filled with ordinary moments. Even the miraculous ministry of Jesus Christ had times of fatigue and hunger, when He had to deal with feuding disciples or disgruntled people, when His ministry was largely misunderstood. In the midst of “non-miraculous” situations, Jesus Christ kept His mission in focus.

What has God called you to do? What has he placed on your heart as a mission? How can you keep it in focus?

I highly recommend that you write it down and describe how it unfolded. Keep it where you can access it easily. When things get hard or you become weary of the ordinary, read it for clarity and inspiration.

Take time to revisit your call, renew your commitment, and ask the Lord for wisdom and strength to accomplish what He’s asked of you.