Leadership

If You Want to Walk on Water…

6a00d8342086bb53ef0120a62425fe970c-320wiIt’s one of the greatest pictures of extreme discipleship in the Bible. Twelve men out on a boat in the middle of the Sea of Galilee, in the middle of the night, being buffeted by the waves. In their distress they see what appears to them to be a ghost. Out of fear, they cry out and in that moment Jesus responds, “It is I. Don’t be afraid.” We don’t know how the eleven responded to that voice, but Peter recognizes that God is present, so he blurts out, “Lord if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.”

Knowing Peter’s impulsive ways, it’s surprising that he didn’t just plunge right into the water in pursuit of Jesus. Instead he shows restraint and asks Jesus for clarity, in order to discern what God was up to. And by doing so, he is invited to go on the adventure of his life. But in order to walk on water, Peter had to demonstrate faith, get out of the boat and make the commitment to move toward Jesus. However, when Peter’s shifts his focus from Jesus unto the storm, reality begins to sink in, he becomes fearful and plunges into the water.

There are many wonderful lessons in this story. In our lives, God is calling us to commit to him, to join him in life’s adventure, but we often choose the comfort and safety of the boat over joining Jesus on the waves. The choice to follow Jesus takes faith, commitment and determination. To go into uncharted waters with Jesus involves risk, and yet like Peter, we fail to recognize that Jesus is in our midst, so we quickly turn our attention to the storm around us and demonstrate just how little faith we have.

Faith takes trusting in the One who calms the storm and who walks on water!  He has promised to be there and to pick us up. By spending time with the original water walker, our faith muscle grows and we learn to trust him more for the details of our life.

Something More

One man’s life changed the course of history for billions of people across the globe. He is both revered and reviled, famed and feared and you know who he is without a single mention of his name. His name is Jesus! Do you know Him?

In the Name of Jesus

12596_w185Three words best describe Henri Nouwen’s book, In the Name of Jesus, “simple but profound.” Using stories from Jesus’ temptation in Matthew 4:1-11 and Peter’s call to ministry in John 21:15-19, Nouwen blends the scriptural truths of these passages to discuss the essential qualities for Christian leadership in the 21st century. In the book, Nouwen identifies three temptations facing Christian leaders today, and addresses the disciplines needed within ones life to counter these challenges.

In looking at the temptation account of Jesus in the desert, Nouwen discusses the temptations for relevance, popularity, and power. In defining these, Nouwen relates that leaders are tempted to know if what they are doing is: 1) making a difference (relevant); 2) winning great applause from men (popularity); and 3) influencing people and advancing their agenda to the degree they desire (power).

As a leader in the church, I have to be honest that I often find myself facing the same temptations Jesus faced in the desert. It is a constant struggle to not look to ministry for relevance, popularity and power. I don’t think any of these things influenced my desire to be in the ministry, but I find that I often need to die to my own wants and desires, and realize that ministry is not about me, but about God and His kingdom. I have seen this in my response to the emotional highs and lows of ministry, by sometimes wondering if what I am doing is truly making a difference (relevance. I have seen this in my hesitancy to speak the truth for fear of not being popular. And I have seen it demonstrated in my anger and frustration, when a goal becomes blocked or doesn’t live up to my expectation (power).

While in the text, Jesus dealt with the temptations by quoting truth from the Scriptures, Nouwen suggests that the antidotes to these three temptations are: 1) contemplative prayer; 2) confession and forgiveness; and 3) theological reflection. For those whose temptation is to be relevant, Nouwen advises that we practice the discipline of contemplative prayer, which can keep “us from being pulled from one urgent issue to another and from becoming strangers to our own and God’s heart” (p.28), because contemplative prayer keeps us connected with our first love. For those who struggle with the temptation to be popular, Nouwen suggests practicing the discipline of confession and forgiveness within the aspect of community, because this discipline keeps “our ministry communal and mutual” (p.65). And finally for those who wrestle with the desire for power, he suggests the discipline of theological reflection because it “allows us to discern critically where we are being led” (p.65).

If Jesus was tempted in this way, who are we think that we will avoid such temptation? Plain and simple, our biggest temptations as leaders in the church will definitely be the ones Jesus encountered. Therefore we would be wise to be prepared when it comes our way, by embracing and practicing the “simple, but profound” qualities for leadership that Nouwen discusses in his book.

God’s Whisper

imagesA year ago today, God spoke to Jennifer and I through these words in the devotional Jesus Calling, by Sarah Young…

October 6

Be willing to follow wherever I lead. Follow Me wholeheartedly, with glad anticipation quickening your pace. Though you don’t know what lies ahead, I know; and that is enough! Some of My richest blessings are just around the bend: out of sight, but nonetheless very real. To receive these gifts, you must walk by faith—not by sight. This doesn’t mean closing your eyes to what is all around you. It means subordinating the visible world to the invisible Shepherd of your soul.

Sometimes I lead you up a high mountain with only My hand to support you. The higher you climb, the more spectacular the view becomes; also, the more keenly you sense your separation from the world with all its problems. This frees you to experience exuberantly the joyous reality of My Presence. Give yourself fully to these Glory-moments, awash in dazzling Light. I will eventually lead you down the mountain, back into community with others. Let My Light continue to shine within you as you walk among people again.

We live by faith, not by sight.
—2 Corinthians 5:7

Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and glory are in his sanctuary.
—Psalm 96:6

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
—John 8:12

For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.
—Psalm 36:9

Two days later, I gave notice my notice at SeaCoast Grace Church to accept a call to Adventure Christian Church in Roseville! What a step of faith it was, prompted by these words, which we believe was the whisper of the Holy Spirit confirming His direction and will for our lives. One year later we are grateful that God confirmed His leading through these words, for they were the precise words we needed to hear at that moment. To God be the glory!

Faithful in Small Things

Law-of-promotion-300x234I’ve been meditating on Jesus’ words in Luke 16:10, “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much.” It’s a great leadership principle from the ultimate leader. When I think of those who did well with the little they had been given, I think of those great men and women in the Old Testament like David, Joseph and Ruth. None of them were able to skip the humbling tasks and the repetitive dedication that it took to become the well known people of faith. It took time – faithfulness to the task at hand.

In studying the call and anointing of David this past week, I was reminded about two lessons on leadership in God’s kingdom. First, “God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). Secondly, character is not revealed in great deeds, but in little things (Luke 16:10).

King David grew up in Bethlehem. He was the youngest in the family, who was sent out to tend to the sheep and live a life of solitude. He was surrounded by sheep. He had no chance of rising socially. No-one saw and knew what he was doing all day long. He killed lions and bears, but he couldn’t post it on Facebook. Yet God saw David and used Samuel to appoint and anoint him as king in front of all his brothers (1 Samuel 16:13). But, what’s fascinating, is that David didn’t immediately assume the role of king. Instead of an immediate promotion, David submitted to serving the one already in that position and waited patiently for God’s appointment to actually become reality. In fact, David had to wait 15 years from the time he was first anointed by Samuel to the time he became king over Judah. It was another seven years before David was anointed king over all Israel. In fact, David waited over 20 years to rightfully take the throne of Israel.

David led a country that was far bigger than his flock of sheep in Bethlehem. But it began by David being faithful in the small things and waiting patiently on the Lord. God truly values faithfulness. Just look at Jesus. He came to earth and was faithful to do what the Father wanted, even to die on a cross for us. To be a man after God’s own heart means that we need to be faithful, not just with the big things, but the little things, too. You see, being faithful with the little things helps us to be faithful when it’s time for the big things. It’s a matter of the heart.

So, be faithful in small things and see how God will remain with you, for nothing is impossible with Him.

Breakfast with Boykin

This past weekend I got to hang out with LTG (Retired) Jerry Boykin, one of the original members of the US Army’s Delta Force. He was privileged to ultimately command these elite warriors in combat operations. Later, Jerry Boykin commanded all the Army’s Green Berets as well as participated in clandestine operations around the world. Today he is an ordained minister with a passion for spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

General Boykin recently spoke to 400 men at our Men’s Breakfast. Below is the video from the breakfast, where he spoke on the 4 Pillars of Biblical Manhood.

Soul Care

imagesThe most common response I hear to the greeting, “How are you?” is “Busy.” I hardly ever hear someone say they’re enjoying a “peaceful, joy-filled day.” I know people don’t talk like that, but you get the idea.

As leaders, it’s imperative that we practice what we preach, specifically when it comes to the topic of margin. I don’t think there is any way we can talk with integrity about “the abundant life” Christ offers, if we haven’t come to grips with this issue ourselves. I know many pastors who are stressed out and overloaded, and I wonder…why? After all, doesn’t Jesus say, “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”? Is it possible that we are no longer taking the correct yoke—Christ’s yoke—on ourselves? Or is it possible that we have bought into a worldly idea that puts the highest value on more, bigger, and better, rather than faithfulness, obedience, and love? When my surrender is complete and Christ’s yoke is accepted, my soul will find rest.

At its core, margin is about trusting God and loving others. By creating margin in our lives, we allow our body and soul to have the internal resources to love God and love others. I suspect the people who passed the wounded man on the road had no margin, while the Samaritan who stopped to help him did. Jesus seemed to think he had the right idea.

That leads to a question: How would the people around you describe you? A great leader? A good teacher? A man or woman of faith? Or would they boil it down to say: He/she is really loving?

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